Killing of 2 civilians triggers protests in Indian

SRINAGAR, India (AP) " Tens of thousands of people rallied in Indian-controlled Kashmir on Wednesday to protest the overnight killings of two civilians by government forces amid a nearly month-long security lockdown.

Police and witnesses said the protesters defied the security restrictions to demand an end to Indian rule in the disputed region.

More than 100 civilians were injured, several of them by shotgun pellets, as clashes broke out in several places, including neighborhoods in the main city of Srinagar, between rock-throwing protesters and government forces, who fired tear gas and shotguns.

Residents said government forces fired tear gas in the town of Pampore after thousands of people offered funeral prayers for a young man, one of the two civilians killed overnight.

He was killed when a police guard escorting a government administrator fired at anti-India protesters who stopped their official car late Tuesday. Another young protester was critically wounded and hospitalized in Srinagar, a police officer said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters.

The protesters burned the car and the administrator and police guard took refuge in a nearby paramilitary camp, the officer said.

The other person killed overnight was a private guard at a bank in Srinagar. His family blamed paramilitary soldiers for his death. An initial investigation showed he had at least 360 shotgun pellets in his body.

Anti-India protests erupted shortly after the young man's body was brought to his home in Srinagar. Defying a curfew, thousands of people carried his body to "martyrs' graveyard," where hundreds of Kashmiri militants and civilians killed during the last 26 years of fighting have been buried.

Police said after the guard's burial, hundreds of young men hurled rocks at police, who retaliated by firing tear gas and shotguns.

The Indian-held portion of Kashmir has witnessed its largest protests against Indian rule in recent years after Indian troops killed a rebel commander on July 8. At least 50 civilians and a policeman have been killed and thousands injured in protest-related violence.

Meanwhile, shops, businesses and schools remained closed for the 26th straight day Wednesday because of the curfew and a strike called by separatists demanding an end to Indian rule.

Kashmir, a predominantly Muslim region, is divided between India and Pakistan, but both countries claim it in its entirety. Most people in the Indian-held part resent the presence of hundreds of thousands of Indian troops.

More than 68,000 people have been killed in an armed uprising against Indian rule and a subsequent Indian military crackdown.

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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