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Angry protest as police kill four

Tens of thousands of Kashmiris have staged angry street demonstrations after government forces killed four people and injured 31 others during the latest unrest against Indian rule in the disputed Himalayan region.

Two months of violent clashes with security forces have left at least 55 people dead in Indian-controlled Kashmir - with the majority of the dead being protesters. The unrest shows no signs of easing despite the deployment of more troops and calls from the Indian prime minister for calm.

Residents staged protest marches after prayers on Friday. Most of the marches were peaceful but in some places clashes broke out after security forces tried to block curfew-defying marchers.

Paramilitary soldiers opened fire in Bomai, a village northwest of the main city of Srinagar, after thousands of protesters gathered and threw rocks at the troops, a police officer said. Two people were killed and at least four others wounded.

In the northern town of Pattan, troops fired at a group of people who defied the curfew, killing a 65-year-old man and wounding two others.

As the news of the shooting spread, thousands of people came out of their homes and clashed with government forces at several places in the town, police said.

In Trehgam, north of Srinagar, protesters threw stones at government forces, angered by their refusal to allow them to visit a mosque for prayers on the first Friday after the start of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, resident Maqsood Ahmed said.

The security forces fired at the protesters, killing a teenage student and wounding at least six others, the police officer said. The protesters were later joined by thousands of residents from neighbouring villages, leading to more clashes, he said.

Anti-India sentiment runs deep in Kashmir, which is divided between India and Pakistan but claimed by both. Protesters reject Indian sovereignty over Kashmir and want to form a separate country or merge with predominantly Muslim Pakistan.

In Srinagar, authorities did not impose a curfew on Friday after a key separatist leader and cleric, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, warned of total defiance if worshippers were stopped from praying at the Jamia Masjid, the city's main mosque. The mosque has remained out of bounds for people on Fridays for the past six weeks to avoid protests.

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