SRINAGAR, India — Suspected separatist rebels killed one and wounded 10 more government troops in two gunbattles in Indian-controlled Kashmir despite a complete security lockdown in the disputed region Monday as India celebrated its independence from British rule.
The Himalayan region has been under curfew for almost six weeks as the largest street protests in years erupted after Indian troops killed a top rebel leader, and security was tightened further in the week preceding India's independence day.
The first attack took place in the Nowhatta neighborhood of Srinagar, Kashmir's main city, when suspected rebels attacked troops on patrol to enforce a curfew. K.K. Sharma, a top official of the Central Reserve Paramilitary Force, said the gunbattle lasted several hours.
The second attack, similar in nature, took place in the Khanyar neighborhood.
One paramilitary soldier was killed, Sharma said. A local policeman and nine paramilitary troops were wounded, two of them critically, he said.
Two rebels were also shot dead after a gunbattle with Indian troops in Uri, an area west of Srinagar. The army said the men had crossed the highly militarized Line of Control and entered the Indian part of Kashmir from Pakistan.
Pakistan celebrated its Independence Day on Sunday and tens of thousands of Kashmiris on the Indian side rallied and hoisted Pakistani flags and chanted "Long Live Pakistan" and "Go India, go back."
At least 40 people were injured in clashes between rock-throwing protesters and government forces who fired shotgun pellets and tear gas.
Kashmir's chief minister Mehbooba Mufti appealed for calm in her Independence Day speech Monday. The national flag fell on Mufti's head as she pulled the rope to unfurl it at a highly guarded soccer stadium in Srinagar, leading authorities to order an investigation to ascertain whether it was sabotage or negligence.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan but claimed in its entirety by both.
India accuses Pakistan of arming and training Kashmiri rebels who have been fighting for independence or for a merger with Pakistan since 1989. Pakistan denies the charge, saying it provides only moral and political support.
More than 68,000 people have been killed since rebel groups began fighting Indian forces in 1989 and in a subsequent Indian military crackdown.