SRINAGAR, India (Reuters) - Five civilians were killed and more than 50 wounded when Indian troops opened fire on hundreds of people who pelted them with stones as they carried out an operation against militants in Kashmir, a senior police official said.
The police official, who asked not to be identified as he is not authorized to speak to the media, said at least 10 of the wounded protesters were hit by bullets and four were in a critical condition.
Indian security services killed five militants in an operation in Indian-controlled Kashmir on Sunday, including Saddam Padder, a Hizbul Mujahideen commander, and Mohammad Rafi Bhat, a Kashmiri professor with alleged ties to militant groups, the Director General of Police in Kashmir, S.P. Vaid, said.
The militants were killed in a gunbattle lasting several hours in the Shopian district in Kashmir, police officials said.
A police spokesman said the circumstances surrounding the death of civilians was being investigated.
Security forces killed four civilians in a village in Kashmir in April when they opened fire on protesters pelting them with stones to stop an operation against militants, police officials said.
The Joint Resistance Leadership of separatists on Sunday asked people to march to the chief minister’s office in Srinagar on Monday to protest against the bloodshed.
“Words fail to express the pain of the tragedy unfolding in Shopian as the count of the brutally killed by Indian forces keeps rising,” said Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.
Muslim separatists have been waging a violent campaign against Indian rule since the late 1980s in Indian-held Kashmir, the only Muslim majority state in mostly Hindu India.
New Delhi accuses Pakistan of covertly supporting the long-running separatist insurgency.
The nuclear-armed South Asian rivals have fought two of their three wars over the divided Himalayan region.
On Saturday, security forces killed three militants.
Internet services in the area were suspended in the aftermath of Sunday’s killings, a Reuters witness said, and train services have been suspended.
Violence has increased in the last two months and this year so far 131 people have been killed in Kashmir, including 72 militants, 31 civilians and 28 Indian security personnel.
Reporting by Fayaz Bukhari; Editing by Euan Rocha and Janet Lawrence