Curfew in India-held Kashmir
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SRINAGAR: India-held Kashmir was largely under curfew on Friday with top separatist leaders detained to halt a planned protest march over a series of recent killings in the restive territory.
Hundreds of police and paramilitary soldiers patrolled the main city of Srinagar and schools and shops were closed, while there were similar restrictions in other towns in the Kashmir Valley, police officers and residents said.
“No one will be allowed to take part in any protest march anywhere,” a top police officer told AFP on condition of anonymity.
“There are police and CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) everywhere. No one is allowed to move out on the street,” Srinagar resident Shakeel Ahmed said by telephone from his home.
Separatist leaders had called on residents to march on Friday from their homes to northern Sopore, the town where unknown gunmen have killed four separatist activists since June 9.
“I have not seen a single person moving outside,” said Shan Mohammad from his home near a hospital in Sopore.
Ahead of the planned march, police detained separatist leaders and scores of activists across the valley, according to statements from separatist groups.
Top separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani, who has been under house arrest, tried to defy the curfew but was arrested outside his home in Srinagar, a statement from his party said.
Police have blamed the killings on a breakaway faction of the pro-Pakistan rebel group Hizbul Mujahideen, citing differences between militants, a claim the group has denied.
Separatists blame government forces for the shootings which left two former rebels and two other activists dead over several days.
Hizbul is one of several groups fighting for independence or a merger of the region with neighbouring Pakistan. Tens of thousands of people have died since the revolt that broke out in 1989, most of them civilians.
Separatist groups as well as the local pro-India National Conference political party have compared the recent killings to targeted murders in the 1990s, when government-sponsored militias killed a number of rebels and separatist activists.
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the two countries won independence from Britain in 1947. Each claims the disputed territory in its entirety.