SRINAGAR, India (Reuters) – Indian security forces said they killed three militants in Kashmir’s main city, Srinagar, on Wednesday after a gun battle, but families of the dead men said they were innocent.
India has been fighting an armed insurgency in the disputed Himalayan region for decades and killed more than 200 militants this year, according to official data.
It is, however, rare for families to immediately contest victims’ allegiance to insurgent 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 militants.
“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 militant groups and likely planning an attack.
One rifle and two pistols were recovered from the site of the gun battle, he said.
A spokesman 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 militant.
“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.
(Writing by Devjyot Ghoshal; Editing by Giles Elgood)