8 protesters killed in Indian Kashmir

Death toll from weeks of violent clashes rises to 31.

Kashmir violence 311 (photo credit: AP Photo/Dar Yasin)
Kashmir violence 311
(photo credit: AP Photo/Dar Yasin)
SRINAGAR, India — Four people were gunned down by security forces who opened fire on thousands of protesters and another four civilians were killed in a blast at a police station, bringing the death toll from weeks of clashes in increasingly violent Indian Kashmir to 31.
The explosion Sunday happened after the police station was set on fire by residents angry at two deaths in Khrew, a town near Srinagar where hundreds had been protesting Indian rule, a top police officer said.
At least four people were killed and dozens of civilians were wounded in the blast, the officer said on condition of anonymity as he didn't want his name to be used.
There were no casualties among the police officers who fled the area as the mob attacked the station, which also housed a counterinsurgency force, the officer said.
A lot of explosive material used in quarry blasting was stored in the police station and it might have triggered the blast, he said.
"A deafening blast shook the earth beneath and a flying brick hit my head," said Mohammed Yousuf, an eyewitness. "We don't know what happened inside the premises, but outside many were left injured."
The mostly Muslim region of Kashmir, where resistance to rule by predominantly Hindu India is strong, has been under a rolling curfew since anti-India street protests and clashes surged.
The recent tension in the Himalayan region — divided between India and Pakistan and claimed by both — is reminiscent of the late 1980s, when protests against New Delhi's rule sparked an armed conflict. More than 68,000 people have been killed, mostly civilians.
Earlier Sunday, demonstrators began hurling stones after government forces tried to prevent them from marching in the town of Pampore, another police officer said.
Government forces opened fire, killing two of the protesters, the officer said.
The latest cycle of protests against Indian rule in the troubled region has left at least 31 dead — mostly teenagers and young men in their 20s — over the past six weeks.
India and Pakistan have fought two wars over control of Kashmir since 1947. Both claim the region in entirety.
Separatist politicians and militants reject Indian sovereignty over Kashmir and want to carve out a separate homeland or merge with predominantly Muslim Pakistan.