India-held Kashmir seethes as 25 killed amid protests after killing of militant commander

Updated July 11, 2016

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An Indian paramilitary trooper patrols during a curfew in Srinagar on July 10, 2016. ─ AFP/File
An Indian paramilitary trooper patrols during a curfew in Srinagar on July 10, 2016. ─ AFP/File

SRINAGAR: Authorities in India-held Kashmir (IHK) were struggling Monday to contain protests by residents angry after 25 people were killed in weekend demonstrations as youths defied a curfew to rally in the streets against the killing of top Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani.

Wani, the Hizbul Mujahideen chief of operations, was killed in fighting on Friday after Indian troops, acting on a tip, cordoned a forested village in the southern Kashmir's Kokernag area, said Police Director-General K. Rajendra. Two other members of Wani's group were also killed in the gun battle.

Indian authorities imposed an indefinite curfew in most parts of IHK after Wani was killed, but massive protests continued despite attempts to suppress violence.

Paramilitary troops and police in riot gear patrolled villages and towns in the region. Most shops were shuttered, businesses were closed and cellphone services were suspended.

But by noon Monday, crowds were ignoring the clampdown to gather in parts of the main city of Srinagar and other towns.

In his early 20s, Wani, had become the iconic face of militancy in Kashmir over the last five years. The son of a school headmaster, he regularly posted video messages online dressed in military fatigues and invited young men to join the movement against Indian rule.

As news of Wani's death spread, crowds of angry youths gathered to throw rocks at Indian police and paramilitary soldiers and shout "Go India, go back!"

Police said that some police and paramilitary posts were attacked, and that some homes of pro-India politicians were burned.

Indian forces claim protesters try to storm airbase

Hundreds of protesters tried to storm a military airbase in Indian-held Kashmir on Monday, the third day of deadly clashes between government forces and demonstrators angered by the killing of a popular young rebel.

Police said several hundred protesters tried to storm an Indian Airforce base about 25 kilometres south of the capital Srinagar as the worst civilian unrest since 2010 spread.

“A few hundred protesters stormed the airforce base,” said a senior officer on condition of anonymity.

“We do not know if firearms were used, but the protesters were pushed back,” he said, adding there were no immediate reports of casualties.

At least 24 civilians and one policeman were killed in clashes since Saturday, as law enforcement officers used live ammunition, pellet guns and tear gas to try to break up the protests.

Most of those killed were young men under the age of 26 from southern IHK, police said.

In addition, more than 150 civilians and 100 government troops have been injured in clashes with Indian troops. At least 10 of the injured civilians were in serious condition.

Pakistan on Sunday condemned the "extra-judicial killing of Kashmiri leader Burhan Wani and scores of other innocent Kashmiris", terming such acts a "violation of the fundamental human rights of Kashmiris".