70 stone pelting incidents, 100 injuries, grenade blast mark 21st day of turmoil

SRINAGAR: Several persons, including teenagers, were injured in fresh clashes across the Kashmir Valley on Friday as people defied a curfew reimposed to prevent a separatist-called protest march to historic Jamia Masjid in downtown Srinagar.

Witnesses and police said demonstrations and clashes occurred at many places in Srinagar and other villages and towns of north and south of the valley amid an outrage over the July 8 killing of a top rebel commander.

In a statement issued this evening, police said that there were 70 incidents of stone pelting reported across Kashmir valley.

Police said that 8 civilians and 46 security personnel were injured in day long clashes. However, a Srinagar-based news agency reported the total injuries as 100, including civilians and security forces.

Police sources said security forces opened fire when a ‘mob tried to storm’ an army camp in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district. Three teenage boys were hit by bullets while another teenager received a head injury when he was hit by a tear gas canister during a clash in Lolab area of Kupwara.

In Srinagar, hundreds of people, swinging green flags, defied restrictions and marched from a nearby mosque to a United Nations office. They held a noisy demonstration outside the UN office.

Chanting “We want freedom”, the protesters demanded UN intervention to resolve the Kashmir dispute and an end to what they said were human rights abuses by security forces in the valley.

Police dispersed the stone-throwing crowd of men and some women with batons and tear gas. Police said no reports of injuries were received.

Similar protests and clashes occurred near the city centre Lal Chowk – the main business hub of Srinagar.

Protest marches were also held in at least a dozen places, including Bandipore and Sopore towns of north Kashmir that had been relatively calm in the days of unrest when some 50 people were killed in firing by police and paramilitary troopers.

South Kashmir, the worst-hit in the ongoing unrest, saw nocturnal protests raging almost through the night, with people carrying flaming torches and marching in main towns.

The region erupted afresh on Friday with more protests at many places, police said.

In Shopian, also in the south, people held rallies after Friday prayers. Many turned violent as people tried to attack an army camp, a police picket and a police station in the south Kashmir district. They also set ablaze a government building in Shopian.

Security forces chased the stone throwers using tear gas and pellet guns. Locals said dozens of protesters were injured. This could not be verified officially.

Authorities on Friday imposed curfew and restrictions in the valley to prevent separatist called protests in Srinagar.

Separatist leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik had called for the protest march to the Jamia Masjid in Srinagar.

Police took Geelani and Mirwaiz Farooq, who have been under house arrest, into brief preventive custody after they defied the restrictions and came out of their houses to march to the mosque.

Malik has been lodged in a Srinagar lockup since the fresh summer unrest began a day after Wani was killed.

Police, in its statement, also said that militants lobbed a grenade on the police and CRPF personnel deployed for law and order duty at Shopian. “Grenade was later on defused by the BD squad,” the statement read.

Life across the valley remained paralysed for the 21st day in a row. It is expected to remain so until the end of this month as the separatists extended their protest shutdown till July 31.

Separatists have, however, said people should engage in activities like shopping for a few hours after 7 p.m. during this period.

Shops, businesses and schools will remain closed as separatists have urged people to come out on the streets on Saturday and Sunday and offer midday and early evening prayers on roads in defiance of government-imposed restrictions on the assembly of four or more people in groups.

Inputs by IANS, CNS, Police Statement