October 08, 2016 - 2:25 AM
SRINAGAR, India - Indian forces fired shotgun pellets and tear gas Saturday as thousands of people carried the body of a 12-year-old boy killed overnight during an anti-India protest in the main city of the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir.
Chanting "Go India, go back" and "We want freedom," thousands of residents marched to the main Martyr's Graveyard in Srinagar for the boy's burial. Police and paramilitary soldiers fired warning shots, pellets and tear gas, fearing the procession could become a larger rally calling for an end to Indian rule in the disputed Himalayan region, said a police officer, speaking on condition of anonymity in keeping with department policy.
Some tear gas shells landed near the mourners carrying the body, which was draped in a Pakistani flag with pro-freedom slogans written on it.
Clashes broke out as hundreds of young men hurled rocks at the troops while another group of mourners changed route to bury the dead. Clashes also spread to at least four other neighbourhoods in downtown Srinagar, with scores reported injured.
The boy was critically injured Friday evening after he was hit by shotgun pellets all over his body. He died at a hospital overnight.
Residents said the boy was hit inside his home compound, some 9 metres (30 feet) from clashes between protesters and government forces. Police said he was part of the clashes.
At least 50 people were injured during dozens of clashes Friday as tens of thousands of Kashmiris protested against Indian rule.
Government forces continued firing shotguns to disperse angry crowds despite repeated warnings from India's Home Ministry to minimize their use and widespread outcry against such weapons by local and international rights groups that have sought their ban. The pellets have killed at least six people and left hundreds of civilians with serious eye injuries, with dozens losing their eyesight.
Meanwhile, a police official was killed after suspected rebels fired at a police post in the region.
Police official Reyaz Ahmed said Saturday that a group of militants appeared on the outskirts of southern Shopian town overnight and tried to snatch weapons from a police bunker. He said the rebels sprayed gunfire after police resisted, leaving a policeman dead and two others wounded.
The violence came as Kashmir is experiencing its largest protests against Indian rule in recent years, sparked by the killing in July of a popular rebel commander by Indian soldiers.
The protests, and a sweeping military crackdown, have all but paralyzed life in Indian-controlled Kashmir.
More than 80 civilians have been killed and thousands injured, with hundreds among them blinded and maimed, mostly by government forces firing bullets and shotgun pellets at rock-throwing protesters. Two policemen have also been killed and hundreds of government forces injured in the clashes.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan but claimed by both in its entirety. Most people in the Indian-controlled portion favour independence or a merger with Pakistan.
A militant uprising and subsequent Indian military crackdown since 1989 have killed more than 68,000 people.
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News from © The Associated Press, 2016