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Thousands protest "staged" killings in Kashmir

Kashmiri villagers shout slogans during a protest in Nadihal, about 70 km (44 miles) north of Srinagar May 29, 2010. REUTERS/Danish Ismail

SRINAGAR (Reuters) - At least 28 people were hurt in Indian Kashmir on Saturday when police fired teargas shells at thousands of demonstrators protesting the killing of three villagers in an alleged fake gun battle by security forces, witnesses said.

The fresh “staged” killings could trigger widespread protests across the Muslim-majority region where rebel violence is waning but anti-Indian sentiment still runs deep.

Late last month, army said its soldiers killed three Muslim militants while trying to cross over to Indian Kashmir from Pakistani side on Line of Control, a military control line that divides the disputed region between two nuclear armed rivals.

But three families in north Kashmir’s Baramulla area said the slain men were innocent relatives who had gone missing days before the border clash.

Authorities in Kashmir on Friday ordered a probe and into the killings and also exhumed the three bodies, which were found to be those of the missing men, an official said.

“Army has already ordered a high level internal enquiry into the incident to bare the facts transparently and to bring to book anybody if found guilty,” chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Omar Abdullah, said in a statement.

“Allah-hu-Akbar (God is great), down with Indian forces,” the protesters shouted, as they marched with the bodies of slain men in Baramulla, 50 km (31 miles) north of Srinagar, Kashmir’s summer capital.

Government forces in the revolt-torn Himalayan state in the past have been accused of murdering innocent civilians in staged gun battles and passing them off as separatist militants to earn rewards and promotions.

Officials say more than 47,000 people have been killed after a revolt against Indian rule broke out in 1989. Human rights groups put the toll at about 60,000.

Reporting by Sheikh Mushtaq

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