Indian home minister 'regrets' Kashmir killings

Image caption, The home minister says that militants are among the protesters

India has said it deeply regrets the loss of life in the Kashmir Valley, where at least 28 people have been killed in the past week.

Home Affairs Minister P Chidambaram told parliament that the violence - which has now been reduced to isolated clashes - now had to stop.

Most of the dead are protesters who have been shot by the police.

Much of Indian-administered Kashmir is still under curfew amid an extremely heavy security presence on the streets.

'Entirely avoidable'

"Mindless violence and destruction of public property will not lead to any solution," Mr Chidambaram said.

Image caption, Srinagar has seen numerous large demonstrations this year

"On the contrary, they will result in the loss of lives and injuries to the protesters - an outcome that is entirely avoidable," he said.

Mr Chidambaram sent condolences to the families of people who had died and appealed to parents to prevent their children from joining violent protests.

"Your children's safety and welfare is our paramount consideration as it must be yours. And I will call you to ensure that they do not join the violent protest," he said.

Mr Chidambaram insisted that the security forces had shown "commendable restraint" despite coming under repeated attacks from stone-throwing protesters that had resulted in more than 1,260 injuries over two months.

He said that there was reliable intelligence that armed militants had mingled with the crowds and fired on the security forces.

The home minister said he had begun a dialogue with key individuals in Kashmir last year but it had been interrupted when a separatist leader who favoured talks was shot and badly wounded.

But the BBC's Chris Morris in Delhi says that the atmosphere now is much worse than it was then.

Our correspondent says that many Kashmiris bitterly dispute government assurances that the security forces have been acting with restraint.

"Once peace and order is restored, I am confident we can explore the possibility of reactivating the political process which holds the key to a solution," the minister said.

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