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Death Toll Rises To 32 In Worst Kashmir Violence Since 2010

Protesters throw stones amid clouds of tear gas fired by Indian police during a protest against the killing of Burhan Wani, a separatist militant leader, in Srinagar, on July 10.
Protesters throw stones amid clouds of tear gas fired by Indian police during a protest against the killing of Burhan Wani, a separatist militant leader, in Srinagar, on July 10.

India and Pakistan traded charges and the United Nations called for restraint on July 12 as the death toll from clashes between protesters and police in the disputed Kashmir region rose to at least 32.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged "all parties to exercise maximum restraint to avoid further violence" even as Kashmiri separatist leaders called for further protests and a general strike.

A total of 31 civilians and a policeman have been killed since the weekend in the clashes in Kashmir Valley, in the worst civilian unrest to hit the region since 2010, when 110 people were killed in anti-India protests after Indian police killed a teenager.

Doctors and government officials said they were struggling to care for hundreds of civilians who have been admitted to hospitals with bullet and pellet wounds. More than 400 people including 100 security officials have been injured, and the death toll could rise further, officials said.

Across the region, shops were shuttered, businesses closed, and cellphone and mobile Internet services were suspended.

Thousands thronged the town of Tral, despite restrictions, to participate in the memorial service for rebel leader Burhan Wani, whose killing on July 8 by Indian police triggered the outbreak of protests.

They shouted pro-freedom and anti-India slogans, and displayed banners like "Burhan, the pride of [the] nation." Wani had been a poster boy for the separatist cause.

Wani's killing prompted Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to condemn India's crackdown on civilian protesters and resulting deaths, while he described Wani, 22, a commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen group, as a "Kashmiri leader."

That prompted Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup to retort that Sharif's statement reflected Pakistan's "continued attachment to terrorism and its usage as an instrument of state policy."

"Pakistan is advised to refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of its neighbors," Swarup said on July 12.

India accuses Pakistan of sheltering rebels and helping them cross into Kashmir to carry out attacks on Indian soil.

Islamabad says it provides only diplomatic and political support to the people of Kashmir.

The Himalayan region is divided between Pakistan and India, but both claim the entire area and have fought two wars over it since 1947.

Kashmir is India's only Muslim-majority region and has been gripped by a secessionist movement since the 1980s. An estimated 44,000 people have been killed in violence there.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a high-level meeting on July 12 to review the security situation in Kashmir and appealed to people there to maintain peace.

Indian authorities sent at least 2,000 more law-enforcement troops to the mountainous region on July 11. Hundreds of thousands are already deployed there permanently.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and dpa
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