SRINAGAR - Police fired tear gas when thousands defied a curfew in Occupied Kashmir and took to the streets Monday in protest at the killing by soldiers of six people including four alleged civilians.

Indian authorities had shut schools and suspended internet services as tension mounted over the shooting of apparent civilians at a military checkpoint in southern Kashmir.

But thousands of demonstrators still clashed with police and troops across the territory, one police officer told AFP. Tear gas was fired to disperse crowds who defied an official order to stay indoors, he added. There were no initial reports of injuries.

The unrest was triggered by the shooting of four people in Shopian district on Sunday evening when soldiers exchanged gunfire with a suspected militant at a checkpoint. The alleged shooter was killed and a weapon found at the scene, army spokesman Colonel Rajesh Kalia told AFP.

Three others were found dead in a car some distance away. The army described them as accomplices but police were investigating this claim. Police later found another apparent civilian dead in a separate car.

A sixth victim found Monday was identified by police as a suspected militant but no weapon was found on his person. The shootings sparked an outpouring of anger among locals, who said the civilians were non-combatants. An alliance of separatist groups resisting Indian rule called for widespread protests.

Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufi said she was “deeply distressed by more deaths of civilians caught in the crossfire” as demonstrators took to the streets.

Civilians often break curfews to rally whenever militants are killed, hurling stones and chanting anti-India slogans. Kashmir has been divided since the end of British colonial rule in 1947. India and Pakistan each administer part of the territory but claim it in full. Rebel groups demanding independence for all of Kashmir or its merger with Pakistan have been fighting Indian troops since 1989, leaving tens of thousands - mostly civilians - dead. About half a million Indian soldiers are deployed in the Muslim-majority state, where more than 200 suspected militants and roughly 60 civilians were killed in 2017.