Villagers: Kashmir teacher killed in Indian army's custody


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SRINAGAR, India (AP) — A young college teacher in Indian-controlled Kashmir was killed while he was in the custody of the Indian army after soldiers took dozens of people from their homes in the tense Himalayan region, residents said Thursday.

The villagers said army soldiers and counterinsurgency police officers raided Khrew village late Wednesday and took Shabir Ahmed and around 30 other people into custody.

They handed over Ahmed's body to his family early Thursday, the villagers said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they feared reprisals.

A police official confirmed Ahmed's death but said the troops were responding to anti-India protests in the area.

The police official, who spoke on customary condition of anonymity, said at least 25 people, including Ahmed's brother, were reported injured.

Army spokesman Col. Nitin N. Joshi said the cause of the death was being investigated.

Large protests against Indian rule in Kashmir and violent clashes with police and paramilitary soldiers have occurred daily since government troops killed a popular rebel leader nearly six weeks ago. A strict curfew and a series of communications blackouts have failed to stop the protests, even as residents have struggled to cope with shortages of food, medicine and other necessities.

At least 20 civilians were reported injured as government forces fired bullets, pellets and tear gas to stop rock-throwing protesters at two places in northern Bandipore and Kupwara areas, police said.

As part of the intensified security clampdown, fuel depots have stopped petrol and diesel supplies to dealers in Srinagar, the region's main city, and other towns, said Bilal Ahmed, a spokesman of the Kashmir Valley Petroleum Dealers Association.

Dealers were already facing a shortage in supplies due to the curfew and lockdown, he said.

Government authorities refused to comment.

"It is a sensitive issue and (we) can't discuss it publicly," said Hari Anupam, a senior official of Indian Oil Corporation.

As protesting crowds have grown sometimes to tens of thousands, the protesters have resorted to pelting soldiers, and police with rocks and government forces have responded with bullets and shotgun pellets. At least 62 civilians and two policemen have died, and thousands of civilians and hundreds of members of various government security forces have been injured.

Police and soldiers have been accused of ransacking houses and beating residents to intimidate Kashmiri protesters. Authorities say the troops only respond to restore law and order.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and claimed in its entirety by both. Most Kashmiris are Muslim and want an end to rule by Hindu-majority India, instead favoring independence or a merger with Pakistan.

More than 68,000 people have been killed since rebel groups began fighting Indian forces in 1989 and in the subsequent Indian military crackdown.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Aijaz Hussain

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