Clashes have continued to rage in the restive mountainous region since the death of 40 Indian troops in a suicide bombing last month (Tauseef MUSTAFA)

Srinagar (India) (AFP) – A 12-year-old boy was among six people killed in three separate gun battles between rebels and security forces in Indian-administered Kashmir, the police and army said Friday.

Clashes have raged in the restive mountainous region since the deaths of 40 Indian troops in a suicide bombing last month provoked tit-for-tat air strikes between India and Pakistan.

The boy was killed after militants were trapped in his home in the northern town of Hajin and engaged in a two-day gun battle ending Friday, police told AFP. His father escaped.

Police later claimed the boy was “kept hostage” by the rebels.

“Despite repeated requests by community members and police for his release, he was brutally killed by the terrorists,” a police statement said, referring to the two killed rebels identified as Pakistani nationals.

Two more militants were “eliminated” late Thursday in the frontier district of Baramulla, Kalia added, while one soldier and two policemen were injured.

Another militant died in a clash with soldiers in the south of the Kashmir valley, army spokesman Colonel Rajesh Kalia said.

At least a dozen villagers were wounded when government forces clashed with protestors near the site of the fighting, firing metal pellets and live bullets to push them back.

Three of the villagers were taken to hospital in Srinagar and were in critical condition, a local police officer and hospital sources said.

Entire neighbourhoods in Kashmir often march towards sites of gun battles between rebels and government forces, attempting to rescue militants.

Scores of civilians have died during such clashes.

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since British colonial rule ended in 1947. Both claim it in full and have fought two wars over the territory.

India has about 500,000 soldiers in the part it controls, where armed groups are fighting for independence or a merger with Pakistan.

Last month’s suicide blast was claimed by a militant group based in Pakistan, and New Delhi has long accused Islamabad of backing a 30-year insurgency that has left tens of thousands of people dead, mostly civilians.

The death in police custody Tuesday of teacher Rizwan Asad Pandit — one of around 1,000 people detained in recent weeks — has further enraged locals.

Pandit’s family claimed the young man was tortured, saying his bones and even his spine were broken and that his body bore cuts and clear signs of torture.

An investigation is ongoing, but police have registered a case alleging he attempted to escape from custody, prompting angry demonstrations across Kashmir in recent days.

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