Thousands of protesters clashed with government forces in Indian-administered Kashmir Saturday after three local rebels were killed in a firefight with troops, police said, with tensions already high following the death of a popular militant commander this week.
Soldiers and police special counterinsurgency forces surrounded a neighbourhood in Sopore town, 45 kilometers (28 miles) northwest of the main city of Srinagar, after "specific information" that militants were hiding in a house there, triggering a firefight.
"During the encounter three militants of LeT (Lashkar-e-Taiba) were eliminated," a police statement said, adding that three automatic assault rifles were recovered from the site of the clash.
As news of the deaths spread, clashes between local residents and government forces broke out in many areas.
Three protesters were injured in the northern Bandipore area, home to one of the slain militants, when soldiers fired bullets as hundreds of angry local residents came out on the streets to pelt their convoy with stones, a police officer said speaking on condition of anonymity.
In southern Kashmir valley thousands of protesters clashed with government forces who fired bullets in the air and used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse a crowds, which was chanting: "We want freedom".
Saturday's clash comes a day after a local armed militant and a civilian were killed by soldiers during a shootout in Bijbehara area in the south of the restive territory where such clashes have become frequent since the start of the year.
Tensions have spiked across the Indian-controlled territory since government forces killed a popular militant commander of LeT group, Abu Dujana, in a fierce gunbattle Tuesday.
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule in 1947, but both claim the territory in full.
Rebel groups, including LeT, have fought for decades 500,000 Indian soldiers deployed in the territory, demanding independence or a merger of the former Himalayan kingdom with Pakistan.
Tens of thousands, mostly civilians have died in the fighting since the start of a counterinsurgency military campaign in 1989.