September 4, 2019 / 8:14 AM / 17 days ago

Kashmir protests claim first confirmed death, Pakistan sees 'seeds of war'

SRINAGAR, India (Reuters) - A man died in Indian Kashmir nearly a month after being injured in a protest, officials said on Wednesday, confirming the first such death since India revoked the region’s autonomy.

Relatives pray next to the grave of Asrar Ahmed Khan, who died on Tuesday night after succumbing to wounds during a protest on August 6, in Srinagar, September 4, 2019. REUTERS/Danish Ismail

News of the fatality came as Pakistan warned that India was “sowing seeds of war” in the Muslim-majority region that has long been a flashpoint between the nuclear-armed neighbors.

India and Pakistan both rule parts of Kashmir while claiming it in full. They have fought two wars over the region and their forces regularly trade fire across a 740-km (466 mile) Line of Control, which is the de facto border.

Asrar Ahmed Khan, 18, from the region’s main city Srinagar, died on Tuesday night in hospital, succumbing to wounds he suffered a month ago, officials said.

“He was reportedly injured with a blunt object in a law and order situation where a violent crowd was indulging in stone pelting,” Jammu and Kashmir Director General of Police Dilbag Singh told Reuters.

Some protesters said Khan was hit by a tear gas canister, though authorities suspected a stone struck him, Singh said.

Media have reported at least two other deaths during protests, but authorities have denied that.

India flooded the Kashmir valley with troops, restricted movements and cut off communication as Prime Minister Narendra Modi withdrew special rights for Kashmir on Aug. 5.

Indian-controlled Kashmir lost its right to frame its own laws and non-residents were allowed to buy property there in changes the government said would help the region’s development and bring it into line with the rest of the nation.

Mobile and internet connections have been off for 31 days. Hundreds of political leaders and activists, including three former chief ministers, have been detained.

“BIG DANGER”

Prime Minister Imran Khan this week warned of the risk of war with India, but said Pakistan would not act first.

“The situation in Kashmir has become a big danger in the region ... the Indian action in Kashmir is sowing seeds of war,” military spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor told a news conference in Islamabad.

He reiterated Pakistan’s long-held position that while its nuclear weapons were for deterrence, it did not have a “no first use” policy.

Pakistan has sought the support of the United States, former colonial power Britain and others to press India over Kashmir, but India has ruled out outside involvement.

On Wednesday, Khan met foreign ministers for the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia in Islamabad to discuss Kashmir.

“They fully understood the anguish of the people of Pakistan over the recent developments and were concerned over the worsening humanitarian situation,” his office said.

The UAE shares close ties with India, last month awarding Modi its highest civilian honor.

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told reporters Pakistan was considering calling a session of the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation to address the situation in Kashmir and had raised it during their visit.

“They have promised their complete support, which is a good development,” he said.

India has battled separatist militants in its part of Kashmir since the late 1980s, accusing Muslim Pakistan of supporting them. Pakistan denies that, saying it only offers political support to the people of Kashmir.

The Indian military said on Wednesday it had detained two suspected members of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group trying to cross into Indian Kashmir.

Slideshow (2 Images)

“Pakistan is attempting infiltration every night,” Lieutenant-General K.J.S. Dhillon told a briefing.

“Some of them are getting eliminated, some of them are getting foiled and they are returning back to the Pakistani army post from where they were launched,” he said.

Separately, India’s Foreign Ministry said it had taken up with Britain reports of vandalism at the Indian High Commission in London during a protest over Kashmir on Tuesday.

Reporting by a Reuters journalist in Srinagar; Additional reporting by Asif Shahzad and Charlotte Greenfield in Islamabad; Writing by Devjyot Ghoshal; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani, John Stonestreet, Robert Birsel and Andrew Cawthorne

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