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Protesters clash with police in Kashmir

25 February 2014, 19:24

Srinagar - Police fired bullets and tear gas as hundreds of pro-independence villagers tried to storm a police station in Indian-controlled Kashmir on Tuesday, a day after government forces killed seven suspected rebels in the disputed region, police said.

One protester was shot and wounded, police said. At least four policemen, three other protesters and two photographers covering the protests were also hurt, officials said.

Police said the protesters burned two police bunkers.

The crowd shouted pro-independence slogans and demanded that authorities identify the suspected rebels and hand over their bodies for burial, according to police officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to talk to the media.

Muneer Ahmed, a witness reached by telephone, said police fired dozens of bullets at the crowd in Kupwara, a forested region about 150km northwest of Srinagar, the main city in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

Authorities later handed over the bodies to villagers, senior police officer JP Singh said. Thousands joined their funeral shouting anti-India slogans and calling for Kashmir's independence.

On Monday, Indian soldiers killed seven rebels in a gunbattle in Kupwara, the army said.

Army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Nitin Narhar Joshi said the fighting erupted when Indian soldiers came under rebel gunfire while patrolling the area. The report could not be independently verified.

Syed Ali Geelani, a top separatist leader in Indian-held Kashmir, called for a general strike on Friday to mourn the victims.

"These are mysterious killings and need to be probed by an independent agency," Geelani said.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan. Both countries claim the region in its entirety.

Since 1989, an armed uprising and a subsequent crackdown by Indian forces have killed an estimated 68 000 people. Although the armed rebellion is largely suppressed, resentment against Indian rule runs deep and is mainly expressed through street protests.

- AP


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