SRINAGAR: Massive anti-India protests and clashes erupted in India-held Kashmir after a top commander from the largest group in the disputed region was killed in a gun battle with government forces on Saturday. A civilian identified as Molvi Aqib Ahmad was also killed as violent clashes broke out in Indian-held Kashmir following the killing of Sabzar Ahmad Bhat, head of the Hizbul Mujahideen group, who was shot dead in an overnight gunfight in Tral area, some 40 kilometres south of Kashmir’s capital, Srinagar. One of Bhat’s fighters was also killed in the gun battle, which erupted late Friday after government forces cordoned off a village following an intelligence tip-off. “Yes, both of them were gunned down and the operation is still going on,” police chief Shesh Pal Vaid told AFP. As the violence raged, hundreds of angry residents chanting anti-India slogans marched in an attempt to help the trapped fighters escape. Clashes between rock-throwing protesters and government forces erupted in different places in the area, with police and paramilitary soldiers firing shotgun pellets and tear gas to stop the protests. As the news of the Hizb leader’s killing spread in the region, thousands of people, including students, took to the streets shouting ‘Go India, go back’ and ‘We want freedom’. Traders shuttered shops and businesses across the Kashmir Valley, including in Srinagar. Officials said clashes were reported from over four dozen places in the region. Police said hundreds of villagers tried to break the cordon by throwing rocks at security forces, resulting in clashes that left at least 10 injured. Authorities suspended most internet services in the region a day after they lifted a monthlong ban on 22 social networking sites, including Facebook and Twitter. The social media ban on April 26 came after videos depicting the alleged abuse of Kashmiris by Indian forces fueled widespread protests. Bhat succeeded charismatic leader Burhan Wani after he was killed in a gunfight in July, which triggered months of anti-India protests in which nearly 100 people died. Wani’s popularity grew after he used social media to attract new recruits for his outfit. On Saturday, in a separate incident, the Indian army said they had killed six fighters who had allegedly infiltrated across the border from Pakistan in the Himalayan region. Pakistan has strongly condemned killing of 12 Kashmiri youth by the Indian forces in Pulwama and Baramulla. Highlighting the gravity of the situation, Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz urged the international community, particularly the UN, OIC, P-5 Members and human rights organizations, to call upon India to immediately stop the ruthless killing of defenseless Kashmiris in the valley.