Authorities imposed a curfew Wednesday in parts of Indian-administered Kashmir after three rebels were killed in a firefight with government forces, police said.
The shootout overnight, west of the main city of Srinagar, comes amid high tension after suspected militants shot dead seven Hindu pilgrims and injured 19 others in the disputed Himalayan territory.
Soldiers and counterinsurgency police cordoned off a neighbourhood in Redbugh village late Tuesday after learning about the presence of armed rebels in a house, a police officer said.
Fearing residents could pour onto the streets for the funerals of the slain rebels, authorities imposed a curfew in parts of Srinagar and erected checkpoints and blockades along main roads.
Shopkeepers in Srinagar's main commercial centre Lal Chowk shuttered their businesses for the day.
There is no suggestion the shootout was linked to the attack on a bus shuttling Hindus on an annual pilgrimage to a Himalayan cave revered as the abode of the god Shiva.
Some officials have blamed Lashkar-e-Taiba, a pro-Pakistan militant group, for that attack but it has denied any role.
Jitendra Singh, minister of state in the Prime Minister's Office, said police and security forces were still carrying out investigations.
A memo that was circulated to regional police, military and paramilitary units two weeks ago indicates Indian security officials had been expecting an attack. The memo, marked “top secret,” warned that a “sensational attack by terrorist outfits cannot be ruled out” in the mostly Muslim region.
The memo, dated June 25 and verified as authentic by The Associated Press, said “terrorists have been directed to eliminate 100 to 150 yatris (pilgrims) and about 100 police.”
It described circumstances eerily similar to what transpired Monday night: “The attack may be in the form of standoff fire on yatra (pilgrimage) convoy, which they (militants) believe will result in flaring of communal tensions throughout the nation.”
Police said the attack began with gunmen unleashing a hail of bullets on an armored police vehicle and, soon after, on a nearby police patrol. They said that a bus carrying 60 Hindu pilgrims had been passing through the area when the patrolling police and militants were exchanging fire, and that some bullets struck the bus and its passengers.
Rebel groups, including Lashkar-e-Taiba, have fought for decades roughly 500,000 soldiers deployed in the Indian-controlled part of the disputed region, demanding independence or a merger with Pakistan.
The fighting has left tens of thousands, mostly civilians, dead.