By Zahid Rafiq
SRINAGAR, Jammu Kashmir, India (AA) – Two Kashmiri civilians were killed and seven wounded on Sunday when security forces opened fire on a group of protesters in Indian-administered Jammu Kashmir.
The civilians were protesting in Pulwama district, southeast of Srinagar, over a nearby gun battle in which a local pro-independence militant was killed.
“A 22-year-old woman identified as Shaista Hameed and Danish Rashid Mir, 24, have been declared dead after they sustained bullet injuries,” a senior police official from Pulwama told Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity due to restrictions on speaking to the media.
“Around seven other people are reported to have sustained gunshot wounds and other injuries.”
Hundreds protested against the firefight in Kakapora, police said.
“The people were protesting to provide cover to the militant who was holed up in a nearby house and were trying to help him escape,” the police source said. “They clashed with the forces and one of them came in the crossfire [and] lost her life.”
Locals said police deliberately fired on the crowd.
“It was the Indian forces that fired live bullets in our direction and they cannot blame it on the militants,” one Kakapora resident, who asked not to be named for fear of retribution, said. “I was there all along and I saw how many bullets and tear gas shells they fired straight at us.”
One of the wounded is in critical condition in Srinagar.
Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan region, is largely divided between India and Pakistan, which both claim the entire territory.
Since 1989, Kashmiri militants in Jammu Kashmir have fought for independence or unification with Pakistan. Tens of thousands of Kashmiris have reportedly been killed in the violence, most of them by Indian forces.
India currently maintains more than 500,000 troops in Jammu Kashmir.
[Photo: Protest against Indian occupied Jammu Kashmir. Indian police attacking in Srinagar. Photographer: Faisal Khab/AA]