SRINAGAR: At least 11 protesters died as crowds angered by the killing of a prominent militant clashed with armed police in India-held Kashmir on Saturday, torching buildings and blocking streets, security officials said.

Police sources said that demonstrators set fire to three police stations and two government buildings in towns south of Srinagar, and three officers had gone missing in the violence.

Top Kashmiri leader Mir­waiz Umar Farooq accused police of using excessive force and questioned their version of events.

The protests erupted a day after security services shot dead Burhan Wani, a 22-year-old militant known for his calls to arms on social media. He led Hizbul Mujahideen, prominent among the groups fighting Indian control of the disputed Himalayan region.

His death came amid a rise in violence and anti-India sentiment across the region.

Photographs appeared to show thousands attending Wani’s funeral in his hometown of Tral, about 40km south of Srinagar, despite restrictions on the movement of people and traffic ordered the night before.

“Unruly mobs attacked security forces,” additional director general of the region’s police, S.M. Sahai, claimed. “The violent incidents of arson and stone pelting were reported from several parts of Kashmir.”

‘New icon’

Some of the crowds tried to enter security installations and managed to steal weapons from one police station that they used to shoot at officers, Sahai alleged.

He put the death count at eight but two other officers said three more people had died from their injuries.

Umar Farooq, the head of a faction of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, accused police of brutish tactics. “The intention of police and Indian armed forces is always to shoot to kill and not disperse mobs by using non-lethal means,” he said.

He said that “maybe at one place the people attacked a police station”.

Farooq was one of a number of Kashmiri leaders who were placed under house detention after Wani’s death, and did not take part in any of the rallies.

Jammu and Kashmir’s former chief minister, Omar Abdullah, said Wani had now become a “new icon” for disaffected people in the state.

“Mark my words — Burhan’s ability to recruit into militancy from the grave will far outstrip anything he could have done on social media,” Abdullah said on Twitter.

Shops, banks and other offices were closed in Srinagar, as paramilitary troops patrolled the streets outside.

Police said they halted traffic on the main highway connecting the disputed region to India after disruptions by protesters and officials said train services had been temporarily halted in the area.

Internet services were blocked across some parts of the territory and mobile phone service was interrupted in others.

Wani, the son of a school headmaster, regularly posted video messages online, dressed in military fatigues and inviting young men to join the movement against Indian rule.

Kashmiri leaders have called for a strike and three days of mourning.

Published in Dawn, July 10th, 2016

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