Protests in Indian Kashmir over civilian death during attack

Srinagar (India) (AFP) –


Hundreds of people in Indian-administered Kashmir staged protests on Wednesday, accusing government forces of killing a man during a rebel attack which also left a trooper dead.

Rebels opened fire from a mosque attic in the northern town of Sopore, setting off a battle with security forces, paramilitary police spokesperson Junaid Khan told AFP.

The family of Bashir Ahmed Khan alleged that he was dragged out of his car after the showdown and shot dead by paramilitary troopers.

His three-year-old grandson, who was travelling with him, was later pictured sitting on his chest.

"Locals said that he (Khan) was brought out of his car and shot dead by the forces," Farooq Ahmed, a nephew of the dead man told AFP.

"They told us that someone in uniform then put the child on his chest as he lay dead on the road and took photographs," Farooq Ahmed said.

The photo of the child sat on the body of his dead grandfather was widely shared on social media.

Paramilitary spokesman Khan said the allegation was "baseless".

Police also denied the claims, saying legal action would be taken for "false reports and rumours".

"There was no retaliation from the security forces," inspector general of police Vijay Kumar told reporters.

Hundreds assembled at the man's funeral near the main city of Srinagar shouting "We want freedom" from Indian rule.

Government forces have intensified counterinsurgency operations against separatist rebels since a coronavirus lockdown was imposed in March.

Since January, at least 229 people have been killed during over 100 military operations across Indian-administered Kashmir, including 32 civilians, 54 government forces and 143 rebels, according to the Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), a rights group.

Rebels have been fighting Indian rule in the Himalayan region for more than three decades to back demands for independence or a merger with Pakistan -- which also controls part of the disputed region.

India accuses Pakistan of arming and training rebels. Islamabad denies the allegations.