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Army conducts flag march in tense Srinagar

Srinagar: The Indian Army conducted flag marches in Srinagar’s troubled areas on Wednesday to reduce tensions following the deaths of four more people at the hands of security forces that led to indefinite curfew across several towns in the Kashmir Valley.

Soldiers in machine gun mounted vehicles drove through various localities of this Jammu and Kashmir summer capital, including the city centre Lal Chowk, Batamaloo, Bemina and Qamarwari localities. Earlier in the day, the Army, which has been called in after the state government’s request, marched on the airport road.

Sources say the Army is reluctant to take over other towns in the troubled Kashmir valley as the Cabinet Committee on Security reviewed the situation on Wednesday.

Union Home Secretary G K Pillai is visiting Srinagar on Wednesday to review the situation in the Valley. “The home secretary is leaving for Kashmir. He will take stake of the situation there,” an official said in New Delhi.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had appealed to the people to maintain calm and not to violate curfew restrictions.

After the troubles of Tuesday, the state government had requisitioned the Army to help police and paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) troopers in enforcing the curfew in the city.

However, official sources assured that the Army would not be used for crowd control in Srinagar, where the situation was described as “tense but under control”.

As reports came in of more protests and curfew orders being defied in various parts of the Valley, union Home Secretary G K Pillai was also on his way to Srinagar to assess the situation.

There was curfew defiance in several places including Baramulla, Sopore, Pattan, Chadoora, Machua and Anantnag. In Srinagar, groups of youths held protests in the Batamaloo locality Wednesday morning.

However, security forces are strictly enforcing the curfew and not allowing any movement in Srinagar.

The state government has cancelled the curfew passes issued last week and even journalists are finding it difficult to venture out in the city.

Tuesday’s violence started after the body of a 17-year-old youth was taken out from a stream with locals alleging he was drowned by the security forces during protests in the Gangbugh locality of Srinagar Monday.

The trouble started Tuesday morning itself when security forces opened fire in Gungbugh locality as protests broke out, leaving Fayaz Ahmad Wani, 35, dead.

A stray bullet hit a woman in the chest in Batamaloo locality as she watched clashes on the road from her house and died while being shifted to hospital Tuesday afternoon.

After that, a teenager was killed when security forces opened fire in Maisuma locality.

Amid mounting concern over the situation in the Kashmir Valley, Minister of State for Defence Pallam Raju said in New Delhi that the Army would stay in Srinagar for as long as it was necessary.

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