Four killed, 50 injured in curfew-bound Kashmir Valley (Fourth Lead)

August 25th, 2008 - 6:44 pm ICT by IANS  

Srinagar, Aug 25 (IANS) Three civilians and a paramilitary trooper were killed and nearly 50 people sustained injuries Monday in clashes between protesters and security forces in many parts of a curfew-bound Kashmir Valley, as separatist leaders Yasin Malik, Syed Ali Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq were arrested here.Indefinite curfew continues across the valley, which was clamped Sunday morning to thwart a proposed march to Srinagar by the separatist leaders, but crowds in many parts of Kashmir took to the streets defying the curfew.

According to the police, paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) troopers opened fire on protesters after one of them fired a shot in north Kashmir Hajin town of Bandipora district, 40 km from this summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir

“When the police and the CRPF were trying to warn the protesters to disperse, somebody from within the mob fired at them injuring two paramilitary troopers and two policemen,” a police officer told IANS.

“The CRPF fired at the mob in retaliation in which 15 people were injured. The injured were evacuated for treatment to a hospital in Srinagar city,” said the police.

“One of the CRPF troopers later succumbed to injuries in a hospital.”

Doctors at the hospital said four injured civilians were critical.

One more protester was killed in Narbal, 12 km from here on the Srinagar-Uri-Muzaffarabad road, when security forces opened fire to disperse protesters, who were marching towards Lal Chowk.

The mob, according to the police, broke the barricades erected by the security forces to reach Srinagar. Batons and tear smoke were used to disperse them before opening fire, said another police officer.

Another protester was killed and 23 injured when security forces fired at demonstrators who were marching to Srinagar from the south Kashmir Pulwama district .

In the north Kashmir Handwara town, a girl identified as Fahmida was killed by “a stray bullet”, said the police. Seven people were also injured there.

One CRPF trooper sustained stab wounds in the central Kashmir Beerwah town in Badgam district where a mob attacked the deployed forces.

Earlier in the day, Malik, chief of the pro-independence Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, was arrested in the uptown Maisuma locality here as he came out leading around 50 supporters shouting pro-freedom slogans and started marching towards Lal Chowk, where the separatists had called a massive sit-in to internationalise the Kashmir dispute.

“We have arrested Malik and his supporters have peacefully dispersed after his arrest,” a police officer told IANS.

Geelani and the Mirwaiz were arrested from their homes in Hyderpora and Nigeen localities late Sunday to thwart the separatist march in which thousands were expected to take part Monday.

While Geelani has been removed from his home earlier too, it was the first time that Mirwaiz was whisked away from home to an unknown destination.

Before this, Mirwaiz, a moderate separatist leader, had been placed under house arrest several times.

“What you call the routine drill of keeping these gentlemen under house arrest where they freely received guests and visitors who would be shown in by armed guards provided by the government has been broken now,” an intelligence officer told IANS here.

Official sources said the decision to arrest the two leaders was taken Sunday at a high level security meeting chaired by Jammu and Kashmir Governor N.N. Vohra.

The separatists had put up a massive show of strength here Friday at the Eidgah grounds in the old city area where thousands offered prayers in response to a call by separatist leaders.

Meanwhile, the security of the Lakhanpur-Jammu-Srinagar highway has been handed over to the army, which will now remain deployed permanently on the over 400 km long stretch to ensure that it is not blocked by protesters.

The present turmoil in the valley started against the allotment of 40 hectares of forest land to a Hindu shrine board that manages the annual pilgrimage to the Amarnath shrine in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district.

The land allotment was revoked later, triggering counter protests in the state’s Hindu-dominated Jammu region.

At least 40 people have been killed, mostly in firing by the police and paramilitary forces, in Jammu and Kashmir in almost three months of turmoil.

The unrest has turned into a mass separatist campaign in the valley, resurrecting demands for Kashmir’s secession from India.

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