UN calls for "maximum restraint" in Kashmir as death toll hits 32

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon Tuesday called for an end violence in India-administered Kashmir where 32 people have died in four days of protests.

Angry mobs clashed with police and paramilitaries after Indian forces killed Burhan Wani, a top militant leader, along with two other rebels, on Friday.

"The secretary general is following the recent clashes in Kashmir. He regrets the reported loss of dozens of lives and the injuries to many others," Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

"He calls on all parties to exercise maximum restraint to avoid further violence and hopes that all concerns would be addressed through peaceful means."

Earlier on Tuesday, Indian Premier Modi held a high-level meeting to review the security situation in Kashmir and appealed to people there to maintain peace.

The situation in the Himalayan region has already led to a diplomatic spat between India and Pakistan. The neighbours administer separate portions of Kashmir but both claim the entire region and have fought two wars over it since 1947.

On Monday night, Islamabad summoned India's high commissioner Gautam Bambawale to convey its concern over the deadly clashes. Pakistan Premier Nawaz Sharif also condemned civilian killings while describing Wani, 22, a commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen, group as a "Kashmiri leader."

In a rebuttal, Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup said the statement reflected Pakistan's "continued attachment to terrorism and its usage as an instrument of state policy."

"Pakistan is advised to refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of its neighbours," he said.

India accuses Pakistan of sheltering rebels and helping them cross over to carry out attacks on Indian soil. Islamabad says it provides only diplomatic and political support to the people of Kashmir.

Jitendra Singh, a junior minister in Modi's office, claimed that Indian agencies had information about Pakistan's role in stoking the latest violence in Kashmir.

Kashmir is a Muslim-majority area and 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.

A total of 31 civilians and a policeman have been killed in the clashes in Kashmir valley. Few protests were reported on Tuesday amid strict curfew restrictions, but the death toll could continue to rise since over 400 people were injured, many of them seriously, officials said.

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

It has been the worst civilian unrest to hit the region since 2010, when 110 people were killed in protests after Indian police shot dead a teenager.

Shops, banks, schools and government offices have remained closed in the region as paramilitary troops patrolled villages and towns. Cellular and mobile internet services were also blocked in parts of the region and a popular pilgrimage to the Hindu Amarnath shrine was suspended.

Last update: Tue, 12/07/2016 - 18:12
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