- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 6, 2010

SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Government forces fired on hundreds of rock-throwing protesters in Indian Kashmir on Tuesday, killing two young men as authorities re-imposed a curfew in the region’s main city, locals and officials said. A woman was also killed in the clashes.

Protests against Indian rule in the Himalayan region have grown increasingly strident in recent weeks with Kashmiri people accusing government forces of killing at least 15 people during street demonstrations. The recent unrest had prompted authorities to impose a curfew in most parts of Kashmir for a week.

It was lifted on Tuesday except for in one southern town until the latest clashes in the main city of Srinagar prompted authorities to enforce it there again.

Kashmir is divided between Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan and is claimed by both. Separatist politicians and armed militants in Kashmir reject Indian sovereignty and want to carve out a separate homeland or merge the predominantly Muslim region into Pakistan.

The latest protests broke out over accusations government forces killed a teenager on Monday.

Police claim Muzaffar Bhat, 17, died after he slipped into a stream by accident.

Resident Abdul Gani said Bhat was playing cricket when Indian paramilitary soldiers beat him with sticks and threw him into the stream.

Government forces initially used tear gas to try to disperse the rock-throwing protesters, a police officer said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters. When that failed, paramilitary soldiers fired on the demonstrators, he said.

Fayaz Ahmed Wani, a 35-year-old protester, was killed on the spot and two others were wounded, the officer said.

As the news of Wani’s killing spread, separatist activists in Srinagar used the public address systems of mosques asking people to join the protest.

“Our protests and civil disobedience will continue until India withdraws its military and paramilitary soldiers from all populated areas,” said Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, a key separatist leader who was leading thousands of marchers in downtown Srinagar.

Carrying black and green flags, the protesters chanted “Go India, go back” and “We want freedom” as they marched through the streets.

Later, during the funeral procession for both young men, five photographers were injured when paramilitary soldiers beat them with sticks and rifle butts, said Farooq Javed, the president of Kashmir Press Photographers Association. He was among the injured.

Manas Ranjan, a spokesman for the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force, said officials would investigate the incident. “We’ll find out what exactly happened and accordingly take action.”

A young woman was killed when a bullet hit her inside her home in Batmaloo neighborhood of Srinagar. Farooq Ahmed, a senior police officer, said she may have been hit by a stray round.

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