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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

Strike shuts Indian-controlled Kashmir after soldiers kill two students

Authorities deploy security forces across the region and restrict internet access

An Indian paramilitary trooper patrols in Srinagar during a general strike called by separatists on January 28, 2018 following the fatal shooting of two students by soldiers a day earlier. Tauseef Mustafa / AFP
An Indian paramilitary trooper patrols in Srinagar during a general strike called by separatists on January 28, 2018 following the fatal shooting of two students by soldiers a day earlier. Tauseef Mustafa / AFP

Shops and businesses in Indian-controlled Kashmir closed on Sunday after separatists fighting against Indian rule called for a strike a day after soldiers shot and killed two young men in the disputed region.

Armed police and paramilitary soldiers in riot gear fanned out across the region and patrolled streets in anticipation of anti-India protests and clashes. Authorities also imposed a curfew in the old parts of Kashmir's main city of Srinagar, the urban centre of protests and clashes against Indian rule.

Two students were killed and nine other people were wounded on Saturday after soldiers in southern Shopian area opened fire at stone-throwing protesters. The Indian army said soldiers fired in self-defence as crowd tried to "lynch" an officer and damaged at least four vehicles.

India and Pakistan each administer part of Kashmir, but both claim the territory in its entirety. Rebels have been fighting against Indian rule since 1989 and demand that Kashmir be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country, a view that is widespread even among civilians in the region.

Ahead of Sunday's strike authorities cut off internet services to mobile phones in southern parts of the region and reduced internet speeds in other parts of the Kashmir valley. It is a common practice the government deploys in a bid to calm tensions and prevent anti-India demonstrations from being organised.

Residents said the clashes on Saturday began when soldiers came into a village and started removing banners honouring recently killed rebels. Villagers resisted the move, threw stones at the soldiers and chanted anti-India slogans, leading to the soldiers opening fire.

The government has ordered a magisterial probe into the incident and police registered a murder case against the soldiers.

Tension in the area was already running high after government forces killed two local rebels and a teenage boy during a gun battle on Wednesday. One of the slain rebels was from the village where Saturday's shooting took place.

India accuses Pakistan of arming and training the rebels, which Pakistan denies.

Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.

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