Death toll reaches 19 in Kashmir clashes after rebel leader killed

Authorities India-administered Kashmir have imposed a curfew and appealed for calm as four more people died in protests Sunday over the killing of a militant leader, taking the death toll in the violence to 19.

Burhan Muzaffar Wani, a commander in the Hizbul Mujahideen group, was killed along with two other militants on Friday, triggering clashes in the troubled Himalayan region.

Security forces opened fire on Saturday when police stations and paramilitary camps were targeted by mobs in a dozen areas in southern Kashmir, where the slain militant was based.

While 10 protestors died in the clashes on Saturday, five more succumbed to injuries at the hospitals by Sunday morning.

In fresh protests on Sunday, a policeman drowned after a mob attacked a police vehicle and rolled it down into a river in Anantnag district, state minister and government spokesman Naeem Akhtar told reporters.

Security forces shot dead two demonstrators in Pulwama district after crowds took to streets shouting anti-Indian slogans. Another protestor was killed in firing in the same region when a mob attacked the paramilitary forces, police said.

A total of 19 people, including 18 civilians and one policeman, were killed during the protests.

The curfew covered all 10 districts of the Kashmir valley. Troops erected barricades and placed barbed wire to prevent further protests, and mobile internet services were blocked.

Additional troops were rushed to the troubled areas. More than 200 people were injured in the protests, 96 of them security personnel. Three policemen were missing.

Akhtar called on people to maintain peace and calm. "We appeal to parents to stop their children from getting involved in protests and stone-pelting, which is forcing the security forces to fire and resulting in loss of innocent lives," he said.

Wani, 22, joined the rebels at 15 and became one of the region's most wanted militants, featuring prominently in propaganda and recruiting material on social media.

Protests erupted soon after news of Wani's death spread in the region as his funeral was attended by thousands in his hometown of Tral. Separatists have called for a three-day protest strike in the region until Monday in protest of Wani's killing.

Strong anti-Indian sentiment is prevalent in Muslim-majority Kashmir, which has been gripped by a secessionist movement since the 1980s. Nearly 44,000 people have been killed in violence related to militancy in the region, according to estimates.

India accuses Pakistan, which administers the other half of the divided Kashmir region, of sheltering militants and helping them cross over to carry out attacks on Indian soil.

Islamabad denies the charges and describes Kashmiri militants as freedom fighters. India and Pakistan have fought two wars over the disputed Himalayan region.

Last update: Sun, 10/07/2016 - 16:51
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