SRINAGAR, India, June 1, 2009 (AFP) - Over a dozen people were hurt Monday in Indian Kashmir during protests over the alleged rape and murder of two young Muslim women by security forces, police and witnesses said.
Police said they are investigating the "mysterious deaths" of the women, aged 17 and 22, whose bodies were found dumped in a shallow stream on Saturday.
Their families said the corpses bore marks of violence and that their clothes were torn. They have accused security forces of abducting, raping and subsequently killing them.
A one-day strike was held to mourn and protest the deaths, with shops, schools, banks and post offices in Srinagar and other towns all closed, police said. Police and soldiers were out in force to prevent more violent protests.
Over 70 people were wounded in weekend clashes between police and angry protesters in Shopian, situated 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of Srinagar, where the women were from, as well as in Srinagar itself.
On Monday, more protests erupted in Shopian and adjoining villages, with riot police using teargas and firing into the air to disperse the crowds.
"Some 15 people, including women, were hurt," a police officer said.
Srinagar was almost totally locked down.
"There is a huge security presence in our locality. It is like curfew. We are not being allowed to move out," said Srinagar resident Altaf Ahmed.
Monday's strike call was backed by hardline Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, blamed by India for last year's Mumbai attacks that killed over 160 people. The group has denied its role in the gun and grenade attacks.
"We urge international human rights groups to take strict note of atrocities taking place against women in Kashmir," Lashkar spokesman Abdullah Gaznavi told AFP from an undisclosed location.
"Today we make a fresh vow to continue our struggle against Indian occupation," the spokesman said.
Indian security forces battling militancy in Kashmir have frequently been accused of committing human rights violations in the scenic Himalayan region.
Officials say they investigate all the cases and punish those found guilty.
Kashmir is in the grip of a nearly 20-year insurgency against Indian rule that has so far left more than 47,000 people dead, according to official figures.