SRINAGAR - Indian security forces in Occupied Kashmir killed five suspected rebels Saturday, during the disputed territory's third major gun battle in as many days.

Hundreds of people thronged a site where security forces had besieged a group of militants, throwing rocks at soldiers in a bid to help the rebels escape, witnesses said.

One protester was also killed in the resulting clashes with troops in Qazigund village, north of Kashmir's capital Srinagar.

Kashmir, where rebel groups have been fighting Indian forces for decades, has seen a spike in violence in recent months.

Three rebels were killed and 12 security forces wounded on Thursday during a clash in southern Reasi district. Two others were shot dead the same day in the northern town of Sopore.

Held Kashmir police said the rebels killed on Saturday belonged to the Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Taiba groups, and had been involved in the killing of two bank employees and police. The operation was "a huge success" for security forces, police said.

Indian government forces were conducting a search operation after an intelligence tip when the rebels opened fire, sparking the siege, police said.

Anti-militant operations have been stepped up since rebels shot dead four police. There have also been rising tensions over a Supreme Court hearing on privileges for Kashmiris that was delayed due to the risk of violence.

Kashmir has been divided since the end of British colonial rule in 1947 but both India and Pakistan claim the former Himalayan kingdom in full.

India has about 500,000 soldiers in the zone it controls, where separatist groups demand independence or a merger with Pakistan.

The UN human rights chief last month called for an investigation into alleged abuses by Indian security forces in Held Kashmir - claims that were later dismissed as "fallacious" by New Delhi.