3 protesters killed amid angry protests as authorities lock down major towns in Indian Kashmir

By Aijaz Hussain, AP
Tuesday, June 29, 2010

3 protesters killed in protests in Indian Kashmir

SRINAGAR, India — Police and paramilitary troops fired on thousands of anti-India protesters in Kashmir, killing at least three people in the worst street violence in a year, police said.

Faced with more than two weeks of increasingly strident protests in the divided Himalayan region, government forces have been accused of killing a total of 11 people in Indian-controlled Kashmir. Protesters demanding independence have attacked troops with rocks and sticks, and government forces have responded by launching tear gas, charging with batons and opening fire.

Muslim militants have fought in the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir since 1989 for independence or merger with Pakistan.

While anti-India demonstrations are frequent in the region, the latest round of street protests was triggered by a police investigation earlier this month that found Indian army soldiers had killed three Kashmiri civilians in May. The investigation said the soldiers staged a gunbattle in order to claim the dead were militants. The army responded by suspending two officers.

Clashes broke out across the region again Tuesday, and three civilians were killed the town of Anantnag, 35 miles (55 kilometers) south of the main city of Srinagar, police said. Local residents said that one of the dead, Ishtiyaq Ahmed Khanday, 15, was not part of any protests and was killed in the compound of his home.

Meanwhile, thousands of police in riot gear patrolled the city of Srinagar, where shops, businesses and government offices were shut.

Police and paramilitary soldiers drove through neighborhoods warning people to stay indoors and not participate in pro-independence protests, said Afaq Wani, a Srinagar resident. He said police were imposing a de facto curfew.

Sajad Ahmed, a local police officer, said that no curfew has been imposed but that the state government has banned the assembly in public of more than five people. Troops also erected steel barricades and laid razor wire across main roads to prevent public gatherings.

“We’re imposing restrictions to avoid clashes,” Ahmed said.

Similar restrictions were also imposed in several other towns in the region. In the violence-torn town of Sopore, 35 miles (55 kilometers) northwest of Srinagar, an indefinite curfew was in force for the fifth consecutive day.

A separate gunbattle near the India-Pakistan frontier broke out on Monday when a group of suspected militants infiltrated into Indian territory in the Nowgam sector, sparking a gunbattle that killed five of the suspected insurgents and three Indian soldiers, said Col. Vineet Sood, an army spokesman.

Nuclear-armed Pakistan and India have fought two wars over Kashmir. India accuses Pakistan of funding and training militants in the Pakistani-held portion of Kashmir and helping them slip over to the Indian side to fight. Islamabad denies the charge.

More than 68,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in the conflict since 1989.

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