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Indian Kashmir shuts down over killings

20 July 2013, 15:39

Srinagar - Indian Kashmir largely shut down amid heavy security Friday after troops shot dead four people during a protest over a paramilitary raid on an Islamic school.

Shops, banks, schools and most government offices were closed after a separatist leader called a three-day strike to protest Thursday's killings.

Srinagar, Kashmir's summer capital, was almost completely deserted after hundreds of police and paramilitary troops were deployed on the streets to halt demonstrations over the deaths, an AFP reporter on the scene said.

Although authorities have not officially declared a curfew in the troubled Himalayan region, residents said they were not being allowed to go about their business.

Troops fired on protesters on Thursday, after residents of the district of Gool gathered to demonstrate against what they said was a desecration of the Qur'an by troops during their search of a madrassa (Islamic school).

They gathered outside a base of the Border Security Forces (BSF) in Gool, 230km south of Srinagar.

Residents accused BSF troopers of beating up a caretaker and desecrating a Qur'an during a search for militants inside the madrassa on Wednesday.

Police officers initially said six protesters were killed, but inspector-general of police, Rajesh Kumar, clarified on Friday that only four had died.

"The fact is that the number of dead is four. The confusion was because we were busy in dealing with law and order and also due to the spotty nature of telecommunications in the mountainous area," Kumar told AFP.

Pakistan, which disputes India's control over divided Kashmir, on Friday expressed its "deep concern" over the killings.

Hurt sentiments

"Such acts incite violence and hurt the sentiments of Muslims not only in Pakistan but all over the world," the government said through its foreign ministry in Islamabad.

"The government of Pakistan calls for a thorough and proper investigation to be carried out expeditiously and those responsible for this act to be brought to justice," it added.

Indian Kashmir's chief minister, Omar Abdullah, also condemned the shootings while India's Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde ordered an investigation, saying the deaths were regrettable.

A top separatist leader, Syed Ali Geelani, called for a shut down to protest the killings.

Most separatist leaders have been detained or put under house arrest to prevent them from leading protest rallies, sources said.

The chair of the pro-independence Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front called for a protest before he was detained by police on Thursday.

The local university postponed examinations scheduled for Friday without announcing any fresh dates.

Revolt against India

In Pakistani Kashmir's main city Muzaffarabad, around 500 protesters took to the streets chanting slogans and burning the Indian flag to condemn the forces' actions.

A revolt against Indian rule has lasted for decades in Kashmir, the country's only Muslim-majority state.

The insurgency has been a source of tension between residents and security forces, often spilling over into violence.

About a dozen rebel groups have been fighting Indian forces in Kashmir since 1989, either for independence or for a merger with Pakistan. The fighting has left tens of thousands dead, mostly civilians.

Nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan have each administered part of Kashmir since the partition of the subcontinent after the end of British rule in 1947.

Each country claims the territory in full.



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