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Six killed in four shootings in disputed Kashmir ahead of local elections

Indian authorities have cut mobile internet and imposed a curfew after spate of shootings

Six people were killed in mounting violence ahead of local elections in Kashmir as Indian authorities imposed a curfew and suspended mobile internet services in the disputed territory on Thursday.

There were at least four separate shootings in the restive Himalayan region, where an armed insurgency against Indian rule has raged for three decades, costing tens of thousands of lives.

An army spokesperson, Colonel Rajesh Kalia, said three militants and one soldier died in separate shootouts in Budgam district and Anantnag district.

Elsewhere, a road-construction laborer was shot and killed by soldiers, said a police officer who spoke on condition of anonymity and could not provide further details.

In the main city of Srinagar, government forces shot dead a man during an early morning patrol, sparking public unrest.

Thousands defied the government curfew to attend his funeral, chanting slogans against Indian rule in the mountainous area where half a million soldiers are deployed.

The shootings come just days after an Indian soldier and five suspected militants were killed in clashes when the army said it detected a group trying to cross Kashmir’s de facto border in the northern Tangdhar area.

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since 1947 but both nuclear-armed rivals claim the territory in full, and have fought three wars over its control.

Tensions have been rising ahead of local elections in October and November. New Delhi has deployed an additional 40,000 troops to the region to maintain order.

Both pro-Indian parties and separatist groups fighting for self-determination have called for a boycott of the upcoming polls.

The region has been under direct control of New Delhi since the local government there collapsed in June.

In May, the Indian Army suspended offensive military operations against rebels in the disputed territory in a rare gesture for the holy month of Ramadan.

Curfews, internet shutdowns and clashes with civilians are not uncommon when violence flares in Kashmir, where Indian forces have been accused by the United Nations of rights abuses.

The Software Freedom Law Centre, a New Delhi-based advocacy group, says authorities have suspended the internet 105 times this year in Kashmir alone.

New Delhi has long accused Islamabad of supporting militant groups waging an insurgency in Kashmir, which is divided by a heavily militarised de facto border.

Last week, India blamed postage stamps released by Pakistan honoring a Kashmiri militant as part of its reason for cancelling rare talks between the neighbors in New York.

Kashmir looks for peace as ceasefire violations increase on the India-Pakistan border

With reporting from AFP

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