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14 hurt in Kashmir protest clashes

Published 23/08/2016

A Kashmiri protester throws a tear smoke shell (AP Photo/Mukhtar Khan)
A Kashmiri protester throws a tear smoke shell (AP Photo/Mukhtar Khan)

At least 14 people have been injured after government forces in Indian-controlled Kashmir fired bullets and shotgun pellets to break up protests demanding an end to Indian rule in the disputed Himalayan region.

Police said the troops fired after villagers pelted them with stones in the southern Shopian area while they were clearing roadblocks set up by anti-India protesters in about half a dozen villages.

However, local residents said the clashes erupted after troops fired tear gas indiscriminately to intimidate villagers while moving through the villages. They said the agitated villagers objected and retaliated with rocks, and the troops responded by firing live ammunition and shotgun pellets.

Bashir Ahmed Chak, a villager whose young son was among the injured, said it was a "premeditated attack" by the troops.

The injured are being treated in hospital.

Clashes were also reported in at least two places in the northern Bandipore area, where a woman was injured.

The killing of a popular rebel commander on July 8 has sparked some of Kashmir's largest protests against Indian rule in recent years.

At least 65 civilians have been killed and thousands injured, mostly by government forces firing bullets and shotguns at rock-throwing protesters. Two policemen have also been killed and hundreds of government forces have been injured in the clashes.

A strict curfew, a series of communication blackouts and an intensified crackdown since then have failed to stop more than six weeks of deadly protests against Indian rule. Residents have struggled to cope with shortages of food, medicine and other necessities.

Authorities lifted a daytime curfew in some parts of Kashmir's main city of Srinagar. However, curfew and security restrictions continued in old parts of Srinagar and in other areas in the region.

In the growing security crackdown, Indian border guards have set up camps inside a college and a girl's school in Srinagar's main commercial hub of Lalchowk for first time since 2005, when the guards were removed from counterinsurgency duties and patrols of civilian areas.

Residents have increasingly accused counterinsurgency police and army soldiers of systematically raiding neighbourhoods, ransacking houses and beating residents to intimidate protesters.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and claimed by both. Most Kashmiris want an end to Indian rule and favour independence or a merger with Pakistan.

More than 68,000 people have been killed since rebel groups began fighting Indian forces in 1989 and in the subsequent Indian military crackdown.


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