SRINAGAR, India (Reuters) - Security forces killed four civilians in a village in Kashmir on Wednesday when they opened fire on protesters pelting them with stones to stop an operation against suspected militants, senior police officials said.
This is the second such incident in Indian-administered Kashmir in just over a week. On April 2, Indian soldiers killed at least three civilians and wounded 70 more when hundreds of people tried to prevent another security operation.
As word of the deaths spread on Wednesday, thousands took to the streets of the capital Srinagar, chanting slogans such as “We want freedom” and “Go India, go back”.
Schools, colleges and businesses in the Kashmir valley closed in answer to a strike call from separatists in protest at the killings.
Authorities reacted with a security clampdown, shutting down internet services in southern parts of Kashmir and suspending train services south of Srinagar.
Twenty more people were wounded in Wednesday’s confrontation between protesters and security forces south of Srinagar, according to S.P. Vaid, the state director general of police.
At least one soldier was killed during a gunbattle with the suspected militants, another senior police officer said.
Muslim separatists have been waging a violent campaign against Indian rule since the late 1980s in Indian-held Kashmir, the only Muslim majority state in mostly Hindu India.
New Delhi accuses Pakistan of covertly supporting the long-running separatist insurgency.
The nuclear-armed South Asian rivals have fought two of their three wars over the divided Himalayan region.
Reporting by Fayaz Bukhari in Srinagar and Rupam Jain in New Delhi; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Raissa Kasolowsky