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Indian troops kill key Kashmiri fighter in Handwara siege

SRINAGAR: A Kashmiri scholar-turned fighter and his colleague were killed on Thursday in a gunbattle with Indian troops, police and residents said, sparking violent anti-India protests by residents in the disputed region.

The incident could spark more unrest in a region that in recent years has witnessed renewed attacks and public resistance against Indian rule.

Indian troops laid siege to a village in northwestern Handwara area on a tip that armed Kashmiris were hiding there, police said. As counterinsurgency police and soldiers launched a search operation, a gunfight erupted in which two Kashmiris were killed.

Authorities shut down internet service on mobile phones and ordered the closure of schools in several places in the region fearing student protests.

Anti-India protests and clashes erupted as the fighting raged, with hundreds of residents trying to march to the site in solidarity with the Kashmiris. Government forces fired warning shots, shotgun pellets and tear gas at the stone-throwing protesters, injuring at least four people.

The gunbattle ended later on Thursday morning and soldiers immediately recovered the bodies of the two Kashmiris, but authorities withheld their identities for several hours, a common practice to give police and soldiers time to deploy at key positions to counter possible anti-India protests and clashes.

Muneer Khan, a senior police officer, said one of the slain was identified by his parents as top militant leader Manan Wani, the newspaper Greater Kashmir reported.

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