Protesters show their anger before elections in Kashmir

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The Independent Online

Police used tear gas to disperse protesters ripping down posters in Indian-controlled Kashmir yesterday as tensions increased before next week's state elections.

Police used tear gas to disperse protesters ripping down posters in Indian-controlled Kashmir yesterday as tensions increased before next week's state elections.

The clash broke out when about 1,000 mourners marched through Srinagar, the summer capital, in a funeral procession for two men killed on Thursday night. Claims were made that they had been shot by security forces.

The crowd chanted anti-election slogans, tore down banners and flags and burnt copies of newspapers describing the two as Islamic militants. Police fired tear gas and chased mourners with batons.

R S Bhullar, a senior police officer, later said the two men were not militants but had been caught in the crossfire of a gunfight between India's paramilitary forces and armed militants. He described one of the two as a former militant.

Earlier, a spokesman for the security forces said that the two were suspected insurgents who had been killed when they tried to escape custody.

Elsewhere in Srinagar, a group of 20 young men chanted anti-India slogans after emerging from Friday prayers at the city's main mosque. The men kicked an Indian flag through the mud, shouting "long live Pakistan" and "we want freedom, we don't want elections," before throwing rocks at policemen.

The incidents were the latest in a series of pre-election clashes. Over the past two days 24 people have been killed. On Thursday, explosions and gunfire erupted at the funeral of Kashmir's law minister, Mushtaq Ahmad Lone, who was assassinated by suspected Islamic militants at a campaign rally on Wednesday.

Elections to the 87-member state legislature are scheduled to begin on Monday, but militants have called for a boycott and warned people against participating. They view any candidate as a traitor, and have stepped up attacks to frighten politicians and voters.

The two men buried yesterday, Nazir Ahmad Dar and Bilal Ahmad Sheikh, died late on Thursday after being detained by the Border Security Force in the Gaw Kadal neighbourhood of Srinagar, said Ghulam Mohammed, Mr Sheikh's uncle. "India is killing our children and we cannot even seek justice," Mr Mohammed said.

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