Anti-India protests have raged in Indian-controlled Kashmir for a second day, leaving scores of people injured, police and residents said.
In the latest clash, hundreds of villagers threw rocks at Indian troops in a bid to help rebels who were trapped in a civilian home in the southern Shopian area, police said.
Counter-insurgency officers and soldiers cordoned off the village following intelligence that at least three militants were hiding there.
As the rebels and soldiers fought, government forces also fired bullets, shotgun pellets and tear gas at the protesters who tried to reach the gunbattle site. At least 14 civilians were injured, one of them critically.
According to police, among the trapped rebels were a top commander and a university assistant professor who formally joined the militant ranks just two days ago.
A statement by the University of Kashmir on Saturday said the sociology teacher, Mohammed Rafi Bhat, has been missing since Friday.
Most Kashmiris support the rebel cause while also participating in civilian street protests against Indian control. In recent years, mainly young Kashmiris have displayed open solidarity with rebels and sought to protect them by engaging troops in street clashes during military operations. Last year, at least 29 civilians were killed and hundreds wounded during such clashes.
Shops and businesses were shuttered in most parts of Kashmir following a strike call by separatists against Saturday’s killings of a civilian and three rebels in the disputed region’s main city of Srinagar.
Internet on mobile phones also remained suspended for a second day, a common practice by Indian authorities to make organising protests more difficult.
Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan each administer part of Kashmir, but both claim it in its entirety.
Rebels have been fighting Indian rule since 1989, demanding Indian-controlled Kashmir be made part of Pakistan or become an independent country.
In recent years, Kashmir has seen renewed rebel attacks and repeated public protests against Indian rule as a new generation of Kashmiri rebels, especially in the southern parts of the region, have revived the militancy and challenged New Delhi’s rule with guns and effective use of social media.
India accuses Pakistan of arming and training the rebels, a charge Pakistan denies.
Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.