Five killed as violence escalates in Kashmir (Roundup)

Srinagar, Aug 16 (IANS) Security forces on Tuesday fired at stone pelting mobs at two places in the Kashmir Valley, leaving five civilians dead in a sudden escalation in violence, officials said.

In Delhi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh held a security review meeting on Kashmir and told officials to restore peace in the valley with minimum casualties. It was the second day of heightened protests in the valley.

The latest deaths took the death toll to 65 in the weeks of Kashmir unrest triggered by the July 8 killing of rebel commander Burhan Wani.

A police officer told IANS here that four protesters were killed in Budgam district and one more in Anantnag.

The officer said hundreds of people, shouting anti-India and pro-freedom slogans, threw stones at the security forces in Budgam’s Aripanthan village, some 30 km from here, in central Kashmir.

The security forces fired as they tried to bring order on the streets. One person was killed on the spot and three succumbed to injuries at a hospital. More than a dozen persons sustained injuries.

Another civilian was killed when security forces fired at stone-throwing protesters in Naidpora village of Anantnag district, some 60 km south of here.

At least a dozen civilians were also injured in the violence, the latest in a series of clashes that have rocked the Kashmir Valley in over five weeks.

Protests continued till late into the evening in Naidpora village. The mob later set ablaze the house of a soldier posted with the counter-insurgency 19 Rashtriya Rifles.

Locals allege that he was one of the soldiers who fired at them.

As violence in Kashmir flared afresh, Rajnath Singh cautioned against rising casualties of both civilians as well security personnel in the state.

National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi and chiefs of intelligence agencies and other civil and security officials attended the meeting, informed sources said.

The minister was briefed by officials on the situation in Kashmir and the infiltration bids from Pakistan.

The valley has seen an upsurge in violence after Wani, a 22-year-old commander of the pro-Pakistan Hizbul Mujahideen outfit, was shot dead by security forces in a south Kashmir village.

Much of the valley has been under curfew and a separatist-called shutdown that continued for the 39th day in a row on Tuesday.

While the separatists have called for the protest shutdown till August 18, authorities are likely to enforce curfew again on Wednesday.

Separatist leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Muhammad Yasin Malik have asked people to come out on the streets for a 72-hour sit-in.

They have asked the people to rally towards the UN office in Srinagar and “wherever forces stop you, stage a sit-in there for 72 hours”.

The government has banned the assembly of four or more people and the protest march to the UN office is likely to be thwarted.

“There will be a complete curfew on Wednesday,” an officer told IANS here.

Security forces on Monday killed seven militants in two shootouts in Kashmir. Five of them allegedly tried to cross the Line of Control – the de facto border that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan.

Two more died after attacking paramilitary troopers in Srinagar.

–IANS

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