- Three fighters were killed in Kashmir, say Indian security forces.
- But families say the dead men were innocent civilians.
- Kashmir valley’s top police official said that weapons were found.
Indian security forces said they killed three fighters in Kashmir’s main city, Srinagar, after a gun battle on Wednesday, but families of the dead men said they were innocent civilians.
India has been quelling unrest in the disputed Himalayan region for decades and killed more than 200 people this year, according to official data.
It is, however, rare for families to immediately contest victims’ allegiance to armed groups.
Police in Kashmir this month filed charges against an army officer and a civilian for allegedly killing three labourers and planting weapons to pass them off as armed fighters.
“Parents might not be knowing activities of their wards,” Vijay Kumar, the Kashmir valley’s top police official, said about the men killed on Wednesday, adding they were supporters of armed groups and likely planning an attack.
One rifle and two pistols were recovered from the site of the gun battle, he said.
A spokesperson for the Indian Army declined to comment, referring the matter to the police.
Bashir Ahmad Ganai, grandfather of 25-year-old Aijaz Ahmad Ganai, who was killed in the protracted firefight in Srinagar, told reporters his grandson was not a fighter.
“He was a student. Why did they kill him?” he said at a protest by family members outside a police office.
Athar Ahmad, 27, who was also shot dead, studied at Kashmir University and had left home on Tuesday to fill in an academic form, his sister Rifat Wani said.
Rebel groups have been fighting Indian soldiers since 1989, demanding independence or a merger of the territory with Pakistan.
The fighting has killed tens of thousands of people – mostly civilians.
Rights groups say cash rewards given to government forces for killing alleged fighters and emergency military laws help perpetuate rights violations.
Authorities deny the claims.
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