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Shootout near Kashmir shrine leaves four dead

Clash sparked a showdown between protesters and police, who fired tear gas at stone-throwing demonstrators

SRINAGAR: A firefight near a 14th century Muslim shrine killed at least four in the Kashmir capital on Wednesday and sparked protests in the city, police said.

Police said three militants and a police officer were killed in the battle in streets near the Khanqah-e-Moula shrine, a tourist draw in Srinagar’s Old City.

The clash sparked a showdown between protesters and police, who fired tear gas at stone-throwing demonstrators shouting anti-India slogans. City shops and schools shut as news of the deaths spread.

Indian government forces cordoned off the Fateh Kadal locality, close to the shrine, after they received information about armed militants hiding in a house, a police statement said.

Witnesses said the gunfire broke out after soldiers knocked at the door of a house and took away a young man.

“We don’t know where he is and now we hear [police] say he was a militant,” the young man’s brother Asif Nabi told reporters outside his home, which was burned down in the clash.

As the firefight wound down, officers turned on journalists reporting at the site of the encounter, injuring at least one reporter and two cameramen.

“They [police] just lunged at us and started beating us with sticks and then fired in the air. The empty cartridges hit my head,” Asif Qureshi, a journalist with an Indian news station said.

Earlier this month, suspected militants shot dead two activists from a pro-India political group near the scene of Wednesday’s shootout.

The capital has however largely been spared the violence that breaks out between militants and government forces across Kashmir.

This year, at least 184 militants, 75 security personnel and 60 civilians have been killed.

India accuses Pakistan of arming and training militants to attack Indian forces. Pakistan says it only provides diplomatic support for Kashmir’s right to self-determination.

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