SRINAGAR - Police in Indian-held Kashmir have arrested a top APHC leader, his aide said Saturday.

Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, chief cleric and head of All Parties Hurriyat (Freedom) Conference, was arrested near Srinagar on Friday, his aide, Tariq Buch told AFP.

"He was first detained by police while trying to leave home to lead a peaceful demonstration. We came to know later he was taken away to Cheshma Shahi (a high security zone in Srinagar)," Buch said.

It came as the number of civilians killed since protests erupted in Kashmir last month after the shooting of a popular militant leader hit 68 Saturday, while a police constable was also shot dead.

Held Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti justified the continuation of the sweeping curfew that has seen schools, shops and most banks shut. "The basic purpose of the curfew was to save the lives of youngsters... If we don't impose a curfew what do we do?" Mufti told reporters in New Delhi.

Police shot one protester dead Friday, while the body of another was found in a river a day after he was chased by police during an anti-India demonstration.

A police constable was shot dead by unknown gunmen as he stepped out of his home in Pulwama on Saturday, Police Superintendent Rayees Mohammad Bhat said. "We have reports that there were militants in the area," Bhat said.

The killing of young rebel leader Burhan Wani in a firefight with Indian forces on July 8 sparked wide-scale protests across large parts of the disputed territory.

Thousands of angry demonstrators have defied a sweeping curfew to clash with Indian forces almost daily.

Kashmir has been divided between rivals India and Pakistan since their independence from British rule in 1947. Both claim the Himalayan territory in full.

Rights groups say 70,000 people, mostly civilians, have died in the fighting and thousands disappeared after they were taken away by security forces since 1989 when an armed rebellion against Indian rule began.