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A man was killed and at least 70 people were injured in clashes in Indian occupied Kashmir on Wednesday as protestors helped freedom fighters escape two separate sieges by government forces, police and hospital authorities said. While protests in support of the surrounded freedom fighters have increased on the Indian occupied territory in recent years, it is rare for freedom fighters to escape.

Thousands of villagers poured onto roads Wednesday as two suspected freedom fighters fought a gun battle with soldiers from inside a house in the Kulgam area in southern occupied Kashmir. Protesters pelted government forces with stones to give the fighters cover to escape, they said. Fifty people were taken to a local hospital after government forces fired shotgun pellets and live bullets to push the protestors back, witnesses and hospital officials told AFP.

"The house was blown up but the freedom fighters escaped in the confusion. No dead bodies were found in the debris," a top police officer told AFP on condition of anonymity. The officer said however that only three people were injured, one with a bullet and two with pellets in their eyes.

"Scratches cannot be considered injuries," he said, to explain the discrepancy in numbers. Hundreds of villagers also clashed with government forces later in Shopian district after soldiers laid siege to a residential area looking for freedom fighters. A local police official said one man was killed and another 20 people were injured in firing by government forces as a gunfight raged between suspected freedom fighters and soldiers that also left a militant dead.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2019

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