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At Least 20 Killed In Kashmir In Clashes With Indian Police

Indian border forces along the Line of Control in Kashmir (file photo)

At least 20 people have been killed in clashes between protesters and police in Indian-administered Kashmir, with more anti-Indian demonstrations planned for April 2.

The authorities on April 1 said three Indian soldiers, 13 suspected militants, and four civilians were killed and dozens injured in fierce battles south of Srinagar.

It was the largest one-day death toll of insurgents in recent years, although exact casualty totals from the recent incidents remain uncertain.

Officials reported police opened fire after thousands of demonstrators poured onto the streets and began throwing rocks and chanting against Indian rule.

Demonstrations were also reported in Srinagar itself, where all schools were shut for April 2 amid calls by protesters for more rallies.

The protests broke out after Indian troops began a counterinsurgency operation in southern Kashmir, scene of heightened militant activity against New Delhi's rule of the disputed region.

Kashmir has been divided between Hindu-majority India and Muslim Pakistan since the end of British rule in 1947. Both claim the region in its entirety and have fought two wars over it.

A secessionist movement turned violent in the late 1980s, with many fighters crossing the border from Pakistan into India, leading New Delhi to increase its military presence in the region.

New Delhi frequently accuses Islamabad of arming, training, and sending fighters across the Line of Control to launch attacks on its soldiers in Kashmir.

Pakistan denies the allegations, saying it only provides diplomatic support to the Kashmiri struggle for right to self-determination.

Pakistan condemned the April 1 violence as a "mindless killing spree" and said those slain were innocents.

"Such cowardly actions of the occupying forces only serve to fortify the resolve of the Kashmiri people," the Foreign ministry said in a statement.

Pakistani media referred to the dead militants as “martyrs,” while the India press called then “terrorists.”

The region has been hit by an upsurge in violence in 2018, with at least 51 suspected militants killed since the start of the year.

With reporting by AFP, Reuters, AP, Times of India, Pakistani Observer, and The New York Times