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Kashmir protesters defy curfew as Indian forces clamp down

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-07-10

Thousands of residents flouted a curfew in Indian-ruled Kashmir on Friday to protest the killing of civilians by Indian police and paramilitary forces over the last month. Police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the demonstrators.

AFP - Thousands of residents defied a strict curfew in Indian-ruled Kashmir Friday prompting police to fire rubber bullets and teargas as fresh rebel attacks injured two officers, officials said.

In northern Baramulla town, over 4,000 residents flouted a curfew prompting police to use batons, rubber bullets and teargas, police said, adding that nine officers and 11 protesters were hurt in the ensuing clashes.

Police and protesters also clashed in southern Kakpora town after hundreds of villagers defied the curfew and were blocked by police from marching on the main road, police said, adding that 12 officers and eight protesters were injured.

The clashes came even as Indian security forces widened a curfew in Kashmir on Friday to contain violent protests over the killing of civilians.

"We have widened the curfew to ensure a violence-free Friday," a police officer, who declined to be named, told AFP.

Five more towns were placed under fresh curfew. Violent flashpoints such as Sopore, Srinagar and Anantnag remain restricted.

Authorities Friday evening temporarily lifted the curfew in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian Kashmir, after four days to enable people to offer special night-long prayers to mark an important Muslim festival.

But police and witnesses said hundreds of protesters poured on to the streets of downtown Srinagar once the restrictions were eased and clashed with police, injuring ten people.

"Clashes are on at several places," a police officer said.

In Sopore, suspected militants launched three gun and grenade attacks on security forces Friday that left a policeman and a paramilitary trooper injured, a police spokesman said.

Indian police and paramilitary forces, who have been struggling to control the wave of protests in the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley, have been accused of killing 15 civilians in less than a month.

The Jamia Masjid, the main mosque in Srinagar, was among the many mosques worshippers were unable to attend for Friday prayers.

However, troops allowed residents to gather at smaller mosques situated deep inside the localities.

The army was called in on Wednesday in Srinagar after residents defied curfew restrictions and held protests on Tuesday against the killing of three civilians. Their presence brought calm to the streets.

In northern Palhalan town, thousands of residents marched on the main road chanting "Blood for Blood!" and "We Want Freedom," witnesses said.

Protest marches were also held in other towns but dispersed peacefully.

No local newspapers hit the stands for the second day running amid tight restrictions on the local and international media. Fresh passes allowing journalists to travel in Srinagar despite the curfew were issued Friday.

The state's Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, under pressure to contain the violence, held a meeting with top police and intelligence officials on Friday, a police source said.

Top leaders in the ruling Congress party also met in New Delhi to be briefed by Home Minister P. Chidambaram, Press Trust of Indian news agency reported.

Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan each hold Kashmir in part but claim it in full. They have fought two of their three wars over the region since the subcontinent's partition in 1947.

Date created : 2010-07-09


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