Army truck crash kills 7, ignites Kashmir protest
SRINAGAR, India (AP) — An army truck collided with a taxi Wednesday in Indian-controlled Kashmir, killing seven people, including a pregnant woman, and triggering violent protests.
The accident took place on a busy highway on the outskirts of Srinagar, the region’s main city, a police officer said on customary condition of anonymity.
The Indian army is ubiquitous in Kashmir, and locals make little secret of their fury against its presence in the disputed region.
Two of the taxi’s passengers and the driver died on the spot, while four other passengers, including the pregnant woman, died in a hospital, the officer said.
Shortly afterward, hundreds of local residents, chanting anti-India and pro-independence slogans, hurled rocks at the army convoy.
Soldiers fired live ammunition in the air and later used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse protesters.
The driver of the army truck was arrested and the cause of the accident is being investigated, said Abdul Ghani Mir, a top local police officer.
Syed Ali Geelani, a separatist leader, called for a general strike on Thursday to mourn the deaths, according to a statement.
Elsewhere in the region on Wednesday, an Indian border guard was killed by firing from Pakistani border officers, a security official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters. Three other border guards and three civilian porters were wounded.
The security official said the firing, which occurred about 340 kilometers (210 miles) south of Srinagar, was an “unprovoked” violation of the 2003 cease-fire between the nuclear-armed neighbors. The cease-fire has largely held, although sporadic violations are common.
Pakistani military officials said Indian border forces fired on Pakistani Rangers without provocation. Pakistani forces responded to the firing, but no casualties were reported, said the officials, who declined to be named because they weren’t authorized to speak to reporters.
Kashmir has been wracked for decades by a conflict stemming from a large, restive population that wants to either secede from India or join Pakistan. Both India and Pakistan claim the region in its entirety, although it’s divided between them.
About 68,000 people have been killed since 1989 in an armed uprising and Indian military crackdown. While the armed rebellion has largely been suppressed, anti-India resentment still runs deep and is mainly expressed through street protests.
Associated Press writer Asif Shahzad in Islamabad contributed to this report.