SRINIGAR - Eighteen people have been killed in three separate incidents Sunday as Indian troops conducted counterinsurgency operations in Indian Kashmir.
State police director general S.P. Vaid said 11 militants, three soldiers and four civilians died during clashes.
He said the militants killed in the operation belonged to the Hizbul Mujahideen (Party of Soldiers) and Lashkar-e-Tayaba (Army of the Righteous). Both groups have been designated as terrorist groups by India and the United States.
Vaid told VOA during a search operation a militant also surrendered to the police. Vaid termed the operation as the “most successful one in recent weeks.”
The Indian soldiers and militants died in clashes south of Srinagar, the main city of the region divided between India and Pakistan, but claimed in full by both.
The four civilians were killed when police opened fire on thousands of demonstrators who poured onto the streets to protest the operation. About 50 people were also injured when the police used tear gas to disperse a crowd throwing stones and chanting slogans against Indian rule.
There were also demonstrations in Srinagar, where authorities ordered all schools closed Monday as rebel groups called for protests.
Militant groups have been waging an armed struggle against Indian rule in the only Muslim majority state of Kashmir.
Pakistan, which has fought three wars with India over control of Kashmir, condemned the violence as a "mindless killing spree" and said those slaughtered were innocents.
"Such cowardly actions of the occupying forces only serve to fortify the resolve of the Kashmiri people," Pakistan's foreign office said Sunday.
Last year more than 200 alleged militants were killed in a counter-insurgency offensive dubbed "Operation All Out." Forty nine militants have been killed this year.
The weekend clashes were the worst since a three-day skirmish in the forests of northern Kashmir last month left ten dead - five unidentified militants and five government troops.
Kashmir has been divided between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule in 1947.