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Flames and smoke billow from residential houses after they caught fire during a gunbattle between Indian army soldiers and suspected militants at Kachdoora village in south Kashmir's Shopian district April 1, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Ismail

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By Fayaz Bukhari

SRINAGAR (Reuters) - At least 12 people, including eight suspected militants, were killed in gun battles with Indian security forces in southern Kashmir, police officials said, in one of the most violent days in the restive region this year.

Two Indian soldiers and two civilians were also killed, and more than 30 people were injured when hundreds of protesters pelted stones at the security forces to disrupt their anti-militant operations, police said.

Troops used tear gas and pellet guns to disperse the crowd, and later opened fire. Most of the injured sustained pellet wounds but six had gunshot wounds, said S.P. Vaid, the director general of the state police.

Local residents put the number of injured at over 50. 

Muslim separatists have been waging a violent campaign against Indian rule since the late 1980s in Indian-held Kashmir.

Vaid said the army received information on Saturday night about militants hiding in an area near Dragad village in Shopian district, about 50 km (30 miles) south of Kashmir's capital of Srinagar.

"In Dragad, 7 bodies of militants were recovered including top commanders. They were killed in a gun battle," Vaid said, adding that the owner of the house in which the militants were trapped was also killed.

Another militant was killed in Dialgam village in Anantnag district, about 60 km (37 miles) south of Srinagar, while one was caught alive, he said.

Two Indian soldiers and one civilian were killed in another gun battle in Kachdoora village, which is also in Shopian district, where a battle with a separate group of 4-5 militants was ongoing, Vaid said.

Train services to south Kashmir have been suspended as a precautionary measure, a railways official said, and internet services in five districts have also been blocked.

In south Kashmir's Pulwama district the local administration has imposed restrictions on the movement of people and vehicles to prevent any violence.

(Writing by Aditi Shah; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)

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Reuters