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Curfew eased in parts of Indian-held Kashmir

Source : AP
Last Updated: Wed, Feb 13, 2013 12:45 hrs

Indian authorities relaxed a curfew in parts of Kashmir on Wednesday, letting people buy food for the first time in days after protests over the surprise execution of a Kashmiri man convicted in a deadly 2001 attack on India's Parliament.

In some towns, residents were allowed out of their homes for two hours to buy food and other supplies. Most of the region's nearly 60 newspapers published Wednesday after remaining shut for three days.

But cable television and mobile Internet services were shut down in most areas for the fifth straight day, and police and paramilitary soldiers in riot gear continued to patrol the streets.

The restrictions were relaxed after tensions eased in several districts across Kashmir and some neighborhoods in Srinagar, the region's main city, said Manoj Panditha, a police spokesman. Further decisions on lifting the curfew will be made after authorities review the situation, he said.

Despite a rigid curfew, Kashmir was rocked by anti-India protests after Mohammed Afzal Guru was hanged in New Delhi early Saturday. Three protesters were killed and at least 30 others wounded in clashes with government forces. Officials said at least 45 police and paramilitary soldiers were also injured.

Authorities on Wednesday directed police and paramilitary troops dealing with anti-India protests "not to carry assault rifles and other lethal weapons," a senior police officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. "They've been told to carry only non-lethal weapons and other riot control equipment," he said.

Protests erupted in at least 20 areas across Kashmir on Wednesday and security forces used tear gas to disperse rock-throwing demonstrators, police said. There were no reports of injuries.

Separatist politicians called for a mass funeral prayer for Guru to be held Friday at a large square near Srinagar's Martyr's Graveyard, where hundreds of separatists and civilians killed in Kashmir's separatist conflict with India are buried.

Separatist politicians and militants have called for Kashmir to be granted independence or be allowed to merge with neighboring Pakistan. Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, both of which claim the Himalayan territory in its entirety,

The protests have stirred fears that the region could be descending into a new round of violence after two years of relative calm. Many Kashmiris believe Guru did not get a fair trial, and his surprise execution only exacerbated the anger here.

Guru confessed in TV interviews that he helped plot the attack on India's Parliament that killed 14 people, including the five gunmen, but later denied any involvement and said he had been tortured into confessing.

Early Wednesday, police briefly removed a tombstone for Guru that had been installed by unknown people over an empty grave in the martyr's graveyard in Srinagar, residents said. Guru was buried on the grounds of a New Delhi jail, and his family wants his remains returned to Kashmir.

Fearing further protests, police put the tombstone back a few hours later, a police officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.




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