By Fayaz Bukhari
SRINAGAR, India (Reuters) – Indian security forces opened fire on curfew-defying protesters in the disputed region of Kashmir on Friday, killing three and bringing the number of people killed in a wave of unrest to 55.
The recent protests erupted in July over the killing of Burhan Wani, 22, a commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen militant group, a separatist group.
In Friday’s shootings, two protesters were killed in the west of Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir state’s summer capital, and one in the north of the city after crowds began attacking police and paramilitary positions following Friday prayers, a senior police officer said.
More than 100 people were wounded including several police officers, the police officer said, speaking on the condition he was not named because he was not authorised to speak to the media.
India has urged its security forces to act with restraint as they try to keep protesters off the streets and quell near-daily violence that has flared since July 9, but some have accused troops of using excessive force to control the protests.
The Muslim-majority region of Kashmir has been divided between Pakistan and India since shortly after the two countries were carved out of Britain in 1947. Both claim the territory as theirs in full and they have fought two of their three wars over the region.
The weeks-long unrest has further strained relations between the two countries and this week threatened to overshadow a regional forum meeting in Islamabad that was attended by India’s interior minister.
India accuses Pakistan of smuggling fighters across its border to attack forces in the Indian-administered portion of the region, a charge Islamabad strongly denies.
Militant attacks against Indian forces have fallen substantially from a peak in the 1990s, but the Indian state has failed to tackle widespread resentment against its rule and there remains a simmering insurgency.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has vowed to continue hunting militants while increasing aid and development for the region.
(Writing by Tommy Wilkes)