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Kashmir shuts down over women's deaths

Kashmiri protesters throw stones and pieces of bricks towards Indian policemen during a protest over the alleged rape and murder of two Muslim women, in Srinagar, June 19, 2009. REUTERS/Umar Ganie

SRINAGAR (Reuters) - Kashmir valley closed down on Saturday in the latest protest over the alleged rape and murder of two Muslim women that has triggered massive anti-India demonstrations in the disputed Himalayan region.

Shops and businesses were shut and most streets deserted except for security patrols in Srinagar, the summer capital.

Anti-India protests have raged in the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley since the bodies of two Muslim women were found on May 29 in Shopian town, 60 km south of Srinagar.

Residents say the two women, aged 17 and 22, were abducted, raped and killed by security forces.

Authorities say medical tests confirmed the rape of the women, and have ordered an investigation.

Two protesters have died and hundreds been injured in clashes with the police. Authorities on Saturday deployed thousands of police across the valley, anticipating further clashes.

“The Shopian incident is an attack on our honour and dignity. We won’t give up our fight till the perpetrators of the crime are punished,” said the All Parties Hurriyat (Freedom) Conference, a separatist alliance, in a statement on Saturday.

Indian security forces fighting separatist militants in Jammu and Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state, have been accused in the past of human rights violations, including rape and extrajudicial killings.

Authorities deny any systematic violations and say all reports are investigated and the guilty punished.