Troops shot dead three stone-throwing protesters including a 16-year-old girl in India-administered Kashmir on Saturday, as tensions rose ahead of the anniversary of the death of a popular rebel commander.
Witnesses said soldiers opened fire in the southern Kashmiri district of Kulgam after hundreds of people angry at an army search operation for suspected militants gathered to protest, some hurling objects.
A government doctor told AFP that the dead included two men aged 20 and 22 years and a 16-year-old girl. “The three had bullet injuries and succumbed soon after their arrival at the hospital,” the doctor at a sub-district hospital in Kulgam said on condition of anonymity.
Police chief S. P. Vaid confirmed the deaths to AFP but did not reveal any more details.
The killings come on the eve of the second anniversary of the death of Burhan Wani, a charismatic 22-year-old rebel killed by government forces two years ago on July 8. Separatist leaders have called for a shutdown on Sunday to commemorate the slain militant.
Wani’s killing has triggered a sustained wave of violent protests that have so far claimed the lives of at least 100 civilians, with last year the deadliest in the region for the past decade. Thousands of others were injured by shotgun pellets fired by the Indian army.
Kashmir has been divided since the end of British colonial rule in 1947 but both New Delhi and Islamabad claim the former Himalayan kingdom in full. India has about 500,000 soldiers in the part of Kashmir it controls, where armed groups are fighting for independence or a merger with Pakistan.
Last month, the U.N. human rights chief released a report, calling for an investigation into alleged abuses perpetrated by Indian security forces in Kashmir. India rejected the report, blasting it as “fallacious” and “tendentious.”