Three killed as Kashmiri protesters defy curfew

Kashmiri protester in Srinagar on 16 September 2010 Analysts see the protests as the biggest security challenge to Indian rule in 20 years

Army troops and police in Indian-administered Kashmir have shot dead at least three anti-India protesters.

Dozens more were injured in the latest curfew-defying protests, in the towns of Shopian, Beerwah and Pattan.

Meanwhile, the Indian army has urged Kashmiri separatists to withdraw their call for rallies outside military camps in the valley on Tuesday.

Hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani had asked supporters to hold "peaceful protests" outside camps.

An army spokesman accused the Hurriyat group of "trying to whip up passions".

Anti-India sentiments are high in Indian-administered Kashmir, where nearly 100 protesters have died since June.

Nearly all of those killed have been shot dead by government forces. The entire valley has been under curfew for six days.

The Indian government has announced that a fact-finding team will visit the region on Monday to meet different sections of the population and gather all shades of opinion.

On Friday morning, an army patrol, accompanied by the police, was passing through Chupora village in Beerwah town when protesters pelted them with stones, police said.

The troops fired live ammunition, injuring four people, including a 12-year-old boy. A 28-year-old man died on the way to hospital, police said.

In another incident, soldiers of India's Territorial Army fired at protesters in Tapar village in Pattan town, north of Srinagar city.

One of the five people injured died in hospital.

Later police and paramilitaries fired at protesters in the southern town of Shopian, killing one person and wounding another three.

The BBC's Altaf Hussain in Srinagar says it is the first time the army has joined crowd control duties during the recent protests. Until now, it has said it wanted to stay out of such operations.

'Whipping up passion'

Meanwhile, the army has appealed to the separatists to call off their protest march to military camps next week.

"It's a deliberate ploy by the Hurriyat Conference to try to whip up passions and embroil the Indian army in the ongoing agitation," a defence spokesman in Srinagar, Lieutenant Colonel JS Brar, said.

"I appeal to all the peace-loving people of Kashmir to ensure that these nefarious designs are not brought to fruit," he added.

On Thursday, Mr Geelani called for protesters to block army camps with sit-in demonstrations.

"I have urged people to stage peaceful sit-in protests in front of army and security force camps in Kashmir," he said.

Correspondents say such sit-ins could pose a new challenge to security forces who are struggling to restore order.

On Wednesday, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh chaired an all-party meeting over continuing violence in Kashmir.

Separatist leaders dismissed the gathering as a public relations ploy.

Many analysts see the recent protests as the biggest challenge to Indian rule in Kashmir for 20 years.

The Kashmir dispute has been the cause of major tension between India and Pakistan for six decades.

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