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Four more die in Kashmir violence, death toll 19

Security forces shot dead two demonstrators at Litter in Pulwama district after a huge crowd took to the streets shouting anti-government and pro-freedom slogans,

The Jammu and Kashmir government on Sunday appealed for calm as four more people died in continuing protests against the killing of a top guerrilla leader, taking the death toll to 19.

A mob overran a bullet-proof police vehicle and rolled it down into the Sutlej river at Sangam in Anantnag district, drowning its constable driver while other policemen fled the scene, official sources said.

Security forces shot dead two demonstrators at Litter in Pulwama district after a huge crowd took to the streets shouting anti-government and pro-freedom slogans, the sources said.

Irfan Ahmad Malik, 17, was also killed on Sunday in firing elsewhere in Pulwama district after a curfew-defying mob attacked the security forces, a senior police official said.

The latest fatalities took the death toll in two days of widespread clashes between protesters and security forces in the Kashmir Valley to 19 — 18 demonstrators and one policeman.

Senior officials said three policemen were missing following the violence and nearly 100 security personnel were injured in the street clashes which have crippled the Kashmir Valley and halted the Amarnath Yatra.

Kashmir Valley erupted in anger on Saturday after security forces shot dead Burhan Wani, a top leader of the Hizbul Mujahideen, along with two of his associates on Friday. His funeral was attended by thousands.

Wani’s killing has triggered widespread protests, most of them in the northern districts of Anantnag, Pulwama, Kulgam and Shopian. Wani hailed from Pulwama. In most places mobs have attacked security forces, leading to tear-gassing and firing.

On Sunday, the Jammu and Kashmir government urged parents of young demonstrators to tell their wards not to take part in street protests that were leading to firing by security forces and civilian casualties.

“We are appealing to parents to restraint their children from getting involving in incidents of stone pelting at security forces, which forces the security forces to open fire leading to the loss of innocent lives,” Education Minister and government spokesman Naeem Akhtar told the media.

Akhtar also urged the separatist Hurriyat Conference to help restore calm in the Kashmir Valley, where a separatist campaign raging has left tens of thousands dead since 1989.

The government said it was also trying to arrange flights to fly out tourists stranded in the Valley due to the violence. Their number has been put at between 10,000 and 20,000.

Also on Sunday, union Home Minister Rajnath Singh presided over a high-level meeting and then spoke to Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, offering all possible help from New Delhi.

Senior officials in New Delhi expressed the hope that the situation in Jammu and Kashmir will return to normal soon.

Four demonstrators, identified as Imtiyaz Ahmad Mandoo, Mashooq Ahmad and Safeer Ahmad, all from Anantnag district, and Mohammmad Altaf Rather (from Pulwama) who were wounded a day earlier died on Sunday.

A curfew now covers the entire Kashmir Valley.

Kashmir Divisional Commissioner Asgar Hussain Samoon urged people to help restore peace.

Those who died in clashes on Saturday following the killing of Wani include Adil Bashir, Danish Ayub, Abdul Hamid Moochi, Jahangir Ganai, Aijaz Ahmad Thokru, Ashraf Dar, Showkat Ahmad, Haseeb Ahmad and Saqib Mir (all from Annatnag), Khurshid Ahmad (Kulgam) and Azad Hussain (Shopian).

Additional Director General (CID) S.M. Sahai and Inspector General of Police (Kashmir Zone) Syed Javid Mujtaba Gilani said mobs on Saturday set fire to four police stations, two police pickets and a tehsildar’s office.

Besides, there were two incidents of weapon snatching and torching of several vehicles of security forces.

At least 100 protesters were injured on Saturday. They suffered bullet, tear smoke and pellet injuries.

Wani was buried in his native Shariefabad village on Saturday where thousands gathered defying curfew restrictions to take part in his funeral prayers.

The separatists have called for a valley-wide shutdown till Monday to protest against Wani’s killing.

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