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3 Killed After Gunbattle in Indian-controlled Kashmir

Anti-India protests erupted in Indian-controlled Kashmir following a fierce gunbattle in which two rebels and a counterinsurgency policeman were killed, police said Sunday.

Government forces, acting on a tip, encircled a civilian home in southern Tral area overnight, said police chief S.P. Vaid. He said fighting erupted after militants hurled grenades and fired automatic rifles to break the security cordon.

Two militants and a policeman working with counterinsurgency unit were killed, he said. At least three other security officials, including an army officer, were wounded.

No rebel group immediately issued any statement.

As the fighting raged, clashes erupted between government forces and villagers who tried to march to the site of the fighting in solidarity with militants.

Troops fired shotgun pellets and tear gas to stop the rock-throwing protesters. No injuries were reported.

Rivals India and Pakistan each administer a portion of Kashmir, but both claim the disputed Himalayan territory in its entirety. Most people in the Indian-controlled portion favor independence or a merger with Pakistan.

Rebels have been fighting against Indian rule since 1989. Since then, more than 68,000 people have been killed in the armed uprising and ensuing Indian military crackdown.