SRINAGAR, INDIA - Government forces in Indian-controlled Kashmir shot and killed four civilians and injured at least 15 others Tuesday as clashes intensified with anti-India protesters in the troubled region, police said.
The troops fired live ammunition, shotgun pellets and tear gas to control a crowd of hundreds throwing stones and chanting slogans in Aripanthan village, west of the area's main city Srinagar, said a police official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of department policy. Three of the injured are in critical condition, police said.
News of the killings brought thousands of Kashmiris from neighboring villages into the streets chanting "Go India, go back" and "We want freedom." Large crowds continued anti-India chants at a joint funeral for the four dead civilians Tuesday afternoon.
The disputed Himalayan region has been extremely tense for almost six weeks since government troops shot and killed a popular rebel leader.
The deaths Tuesday raise the death toll in the region's largest protests in years to 63, including two policemen. Thousands more have been injured.
Shops, businesses and schools have remained closed because of the security lockdown and protest strikes called by separatists who challenge India's sovereignty over Kashmir. Residents have struggled to cope with shortages of food, medicine and other necessities. Hospitals have been overwhelmed by thousands of injured.
The region is divided between India and Pakistan and claimed in entirety by both. Anti-India feelings run strong in the Muslim-majority region, where most people favor 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 a subsequent Indian military crackdown.