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Police issue shoot on sight orders in Kashmir

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SRINAGAR, India » Indian police patrolled the streets of Kashmir on Tuesday, threatening to shoot anyone defying a rigid curfew imposed on the region a day after troops battled protesters in the streets in violence that killed 19 people.

The region has been wracked by anti-India protests throughout the summer, but the chaos Monday — exacerbated by reports of a Quran desecration in the United States — was the deadliest here since large-scale demonstrations began in June.

In an attempt to prevent another round of violence, police and paramilitary soldiers drove through the deserted streets of the main towns of Indian-controlled Kashmir, using loudspeakers to announce that curfew violators would be shot on sight.

But scores of demonstrators took to the streets of Baramulla, north of Kashmir’s main city Srinagar, and hurled rocks at police. Soldiers retaliated by firing shots in the air and launching tear gas shells, wounding three protesters, said a police officer speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

In overnight protests, demonstrators set fire to a police vehicle in Charar-e-Sharief, 30 miles (45 kilometers) southwest of Srinagar, police said.

The region has been roiled for months by separatist protests that often descend into clashes with government forces. The violence has killed at least 88 people this summer — mostly teenage boys and young men in their 20s.

The anti-India protests turned into rare anti-America protests Monday as reports of a Quran desecration in the United States intensified the anger of demonstrators, with activists chanting "Down with America" and burning an effigy of President Barack Obama. The protesters burned government buildings and Christian missionary school and threw rocks at troops, who responded by firing into the crowds.

The death toll from that violence rose to 19 on Tuesday, including 18 demonstrators and one police officer.

The violence came as Indian officials debated whether to make goodwill gestures to try to ease tensions in the war-wracked region, which is divided between India and Pakistan and fully claimed by both.

Since 1989, a violent, separatist insurgency and the ensuing crackdown by Indian forces have killed an estimated 68,000 people. Although the armed rebellion is largely suppressed, the region remains heavily militarized, with checkpoints along main roads, hundreds of thousands of troops stationed here and harsh emergency laws still in force, creating further friction with the restive population.


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