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Death toll rises in Kashmir standoff between Indian forces and rebels

For a second straight day, rebels in Kashmir and Indian troops have exchanged gunfire, with several dead and wounded in the clash. The standoff also sparked anti-India protests at the site of the gun battle.

The death toll from an ongoing standoff in the Indian portion of Kashmir rose to seven on Sunday, a day after a group of rebels attacked a paramilitary convoy and then took refuge in a government building.

Five soldiers, one militant and one civilian have been killed so far, and another 13 members of the security force have been wounded in the fighting on the outskirts of the state capital, Srinagar.

"We have killed one militant," Bhavesh Chaudhary, a spokesman for the Central Reserve Police Force, said on Sunday evening. "The operation is ongoing."

Earlier on Sunday, an estimated two or three rebels used guns and grenades as Indian paramilitary troops tried to storm the five-story government building, Chaudhary said.

On Saturday, two paramilitary soldiers and one civilian were killed when the rebels ambushed the Indian paramilitary convoy before occupying the government-run Entrepreneurship Development Institute.

A Kashmiri Muslim walks along with his bicycle as an Indian soldier stands guard

Anti-India sentiments run deep in Kashmir

The heavily armed militants allowed more than 100 civilian government employees to leave the building. Witnesses say the rebels told students and staff to leave immediately on Saturday to "save themselves."

'We want freedom'

Anti-India protests broke out on Sunday in several neighborhoods around the Pampore area, where the militants are holed up.

Chanting "Go India, go back" and "We want freedom," hundreds of youths ignored orders from police to stay away from the standoff site and hurled rocks at officers and paramilitary soldiers.

Government forces then fired tear gas and pellet guns to break up the protest. At least three protesters were hospitalized with injuries from the pellet guns, police reported.

More than 68,000 people have been

killed in Kashmir

since a secessionist militant movement took hold in the region in the 1980s, followed by an Indian military crackdown. India and Pakistan each administer a portion of Kashmir, but both countries claim the region in its entirety.

rs/tj (AP, AFP, dpa)

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