WASHINGTON - The United States added the Kashmiri separatist group Hizbul Mujahideen to its blacklist of terrorist organisations on Wednesday, amid renewed protests against Indian rule in the region.

US authorities had already designated the group’s leader, Syed Salahuddin, a “global terrorist”, but he is still able to operate in Azad Kashmir, where his group has strong support.

The State Department designation bans US citizens and residents from dealing with the group and any assets found to belong to the Hizbul Mujahideen in areas under US jurisdiction will be frozen.

“Today’s action notifies the US public and the international community that HM is a terrorist organisation,” the department said.

“Terrorism designations expose and isolate organisations and individuals, and deny them access to the US financial system. Moreover, designations can assist the law enforcement activities of US agencies and other governments.”

The US designation comes on the week that both India and Pakistan mark 70 years of independence from the British Empire - and the start of a bitter rivalry and decades of conflict over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.

Since 1989, rebel groups have fought in Indian-occupied Kashmir, demanding independence or a merger of the territory with Pakistan, and tens of thousands - mostly civilians - have been killed.

On Sunday, two Indian soldiers and three rebels were killed in a gun battle after counter-insurgency forces surrounded separatists in a village just south of the city of Srinagar. The US had named 71-year-old Salahuddin as a specially designated global terrorist on June 26, just hours before Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met President Donald Trump at the White House.

The designation of the Hizb came two days after the two leaders spoke on phone — Trump called to congratulate Modi on the 70th anniversary of India’s independence and announced the setting up of a new dialogue mechanism to elevate the strategic ties between the two countries.

On Sunday, two Indian soldiers and three rebels were killed in a gun battle after counter-insurgency forces surrounded separatists in a village just south of the city of Srinagar. The US had named 71-year-old Salahuddin as a specially designated global terrorist on June 26, just hours before Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met President Donald Trump at the White House.

The designation of the Hizb came two days after the two leaders spoke on phone — Trump called to congratulate Modi on the 70th anniversary of India’s independence and announced the setting up of a new dialogue mechanism to elevate the strategic ties between the two countries.