Eight die in protests in Indian Kashmir after top rebel killed

At least eight civilians died in the troubled Himalayan region of Kashmir on Saturday during protests over the killing of a rebel leader by Indian forces, police said.

Burhan Muzaffar Wani, a commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen group, was killed in Kashmir on Friday along with two other militants.

Protesters took to the streets of Indian-administered Kashmir after news of Wani's death spread in the region, which is disputed between Pakistan and India, with each controlling half, divided by the contentious Line of Control border.

Security forces opened fire when stone-pelting mobs targeted police stations and army posts in the southern Kashmir, the area where the slain militant belonged to.

"Of the eight people who died, seven died in retaliatory action and one died due to drowning," the latter dying as he fled security forces, senior police official SM Sahai told reporters in the state capital Srinagar.

"There were multiple attacks at various locations, the consequence of which was unfortunate," Sahai said, adding that there was a risk of arms and ammunition being taking from official posts during the protests.

In the Damhal Hanjipora area, crowds attacked a police station, looted weapons and fired on policemen.

More than 100 people, including 96 security personnel were injured in protests at a dozen sites in the region and the death toll was likely to rise.

Local media reports said 20 security camps were attacked and three police stations were torched.

Demonstrators shouted pro-Pakistan slogans and burned tyres in the state capital Srinagar. Strong anti-India sentiment is prevalent in Muslim-majority Kashmir, which has been gripped by a secessionist movement since the 1980s.

"The situation in certain areas is bad, mostly south Kashmir. There have been some incidents in North Kashmir and Srinagar, but it is mostly under control," Sahai said.

A curfew was imposed in several areas on Saturday, mobile internet services were blocked and the annual pilgrimage to the Hindu Amarnath shrine was suspended.

Wani, 22, 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.

Authorities had offered a reward of 1 million rupees (15,000 dollars) for information leading to his arrest, broadcaster NDTV said.

Wani's funeral in Tral in southern Kashmir on Saturday was attended by an estimated 20,000 locals, the IANS news agency reported.

Indian Kashmir has seen a surge in violence this summer. At least 10 militants were killed by security forces in two gunbattles in June.

According to estimates, nearly 44,000 people have been killed in secessionist violence in the region.

India accuses Pakistan of sheltering militants and helping them to 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: Sat, 09/07/2016 - 16:07

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