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Troops shot dead three stone-throwing protesters including a 16-year-old girl in Indian-held Kashmir on Saturday, as tensions rose ahead of the anniversary of the death of a popular rebel commander. Witnesses said soldiers opened fire in the southern Kashmiri district of Kulgam after hundreds of people angry at an army search operation for suspected militants gathered to protest, some hurling objects.

A government doctor told AFP that the dead included two men aged 20 and 22 years and a 16-year-old girl. "The three had bullet injuries and succumbed soon after their arrival at the hospital," the doctor at a sub-district hospital in Kulgam said on condition of anonymity. Police chief S P Vaid confirmed the deaths to AFP but did not reveal any more details.

The killings come on the eve of the second anniversary of the death of Burhan Wani, a charismatic 22-year-old freedom fighter killed by Indian forces two years ago on July 8. Kashmiri leaders have called for a shutdown on Sunday to commemorate the martyred militant.

Wani's killing has triggered a sustained wave of violent protests that have so far claimed the lives of at least 100 civilians, with last year the deadliest in the region for the past decade. Thousands of others were injured by shotgun pellets fired by the Indian army.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2018

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