Indian police fire on Kashmir protesters

AFP August 01, 2010
ANOTHER protester has been killed in revolt-hit Indian Kashmir, bringing to six the number of young men shot dead by security forces in two days as fresh violence shakes the region.

The latest casualties marked the deadliest 48 hours in the Muslim-majority Himalayan territory since June 11, when the turmoil first erupted after a 17-year-old student was killed by a police tear-gas shell.

So far, Indian security forces have been accused of killing 23 Kashmiri civilians – many of them in their teens or 20s – in less than two months.

The latest casualty, a 30-year-old man, was killed yesterday when security forces opened fire at rock-throwing protesters in northern Baramulla town, a police officer said, asking not to be named.

Earlier, a young man was killed in the neighbouring Naidkhai village when “security forces opened fire as a group of protesters tried to attack a police camp”, he said.

The deaths brought to six the number of people killed in clashes with security forces since Friday in the northern district of Baramulla, known as a hotbed of separatist sentiment.

Several other demonstrators were injured, one of them seriously, in yesterday’s firing incident in Naidkhai village, the officer told AFP.

The latest round of police firing happened in northern Kashmir as authorities struggled to subdue protesters defying a strict curfew that was imposed on all major towns in the Kashmir valley yesterday.

Each death has sparked a new cycle of violence despite appeals for calm from state Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and Indian Home Minister P Chidambaram.

In Sopore, protesters set fire to a railway station, smashing windows and breaking furniture, and hurling stones, another police officer said.

Security forces fired shots to disperse the protesters, injuring four people, the officer said, asking not to be named.

In neighbouring Kreeri town, demonstrators torched a counter-insurgency police camp and threw stones at a security patrol, prompting security forces to fire in self-defence, injuring two women and one man, he said.

“The condition of one injured woman is critical,” the officer told AFP.

In Pampore, demonstrators set ablaze two Indian Air Force vehicles but police fired tear gas and warning shots and were able to rescue the occupants, police said.

Srinagar, Indian Kashmir’s summer capital, which was also under curfew, looked deserted as troops armed with rifles and batons patrolled the streets.

In some parts of Srinagar, protesters and riot police clashed, police said.

Police and paramilitary forces were also deployed in strength in other large towns in a bid to keep a lid on demonstrations, the spokesman said.

The two-decade-old insurgency against New Delhi’s rule in Kashmir has claimed tens of thousands of lives, though the recent unrest is the worst for two years.

Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan each hold Kashmir in part but claim it in full. Separatist politicians and Islamic militants reject Indian rule in Kashmir and want to merge with Muslim-majority Pakistan or carve out an independent state.

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