SRINAGAR, Indian-controlled Kashmir, July 9 (Xinhua) — At least eight civilians were killed and scores wounded Saturday after government forces fired on protesters in restive Indian-controlled Kashmir, police said.
The civilians were killed during the clashes that broke out in two southern districts of Anantnag and Kulgam against the killing of top militant commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani in a gunfight on Friday.
The protesters according to reports were trying to defy police restrictions and march to take part in funeral prayers of Wani on the call of separatist leaders.
“Attempts of attacks on security establishments were made, government buildings and houses of politicians were attacked,” said a senior police official Shiv Murari Sahai in a hurriedly called press conference in Srinagar.
Sahai said the government forces fired in “retaliation” causing eight casualties.
The 22-year-old Wani was poster boy of region’s indigenous militant outfit – Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) and face of new age militancy in the region. He had featured in videos – wearing combat fatigues and brandishing automatic weapons.
Protests in the region began Friday evening, however violent clashes broke out on Saturday. The irate youth threw stones and brickbats on police and paramilitary troopers, who responded by firing tear smoke shells, pellets and bullets.
The fresh killings have fuelled further anger in the volatile region with separatist groups extending shutdown call for two more days.
Authorities have placed region’s top separatist leaders under house arrest and clamped curfew in several parts including restrictions to prevent spreading of clashes. The local government fears participation of separatist leaders would intensify protests. Anti-India sentiment runs deep in the psyche of majority of Kashmiris.
According to police all the deaths have been reported from Anantnag and Kulgam and of the eight slain youth one died due to drowning during police chase.
Sahai said some 90 policemen were injured in the day-long clashes.
Local government is tightlipped over the fresh spate of violence and civilian killings and no minister was available to talk to media. However, an official handout said region’s chief minister Mehbooba Mufti has expressed deep grief and agony over the death of youths during protests at various places.
“I express profound grief over the tragic death of the youths and extend my heart-felt condolences to the bereaved family members in their hour of immense grief,” the statement quoted Mehbooba as saying.
Wani’s body was buried later during the day. Thousands of people including women had gathered to participate in funeral prayers and mourning of Wani.
Eyewitnesses said militants also participated in the funeral prayer of their slain leader and offered him a salute by firing volley of shots skywards.
Wani was killed along with his two associates. Police officials describe killing of Wani as a major set-back to the militancy in southern districts.
Kashmir, the Himalayan region divided between India and Pakistan is claimed by both in full. Since their Independence from Britain, the two countries have fought three wars, two exclusively over Kashmir. Enditem