Strike in Kashmir over shooting
24 February 2006
London: A general strike is being observed in parts of Indian-administered Kashmir over the fatal shooting of four young males, allegedly by the Indian army. Shops and businesses have closed and government offices have been hit by the strike, called by separatist groups. Thousands of Kashmiris have taken part in street protests since the boys were shot in Handwara on Wednesday. Meanwhile, police say five people died in a clash between security forces and separatist militants late on Thursday. 'Caught in crossfire' Feelings have been running high since Wednesday over the shootings in Handwara, nearly 80km (50 miles) from Srinagar, the capital of Indian- administered Kashmir. The boys, who were aged between seven and 19 years, were apparently playing cricket when they were shot. The army says the firing started after militants hurled grenades at soldiers who had sealed off the area - and the boys were caught in the crossfire. But that version is disputed by locals, who say the soldiers fired as the boys tried to flee the scene. Both Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and the army have ordered separate inquiries into the shooting. The two-day general strike was called by the hardline faction of the main separatist alliance, the All Party Hurriyat Conference. The operation of government offices and banks has been affected by the stoppage and few cars or buses are reported on the roads. 'Rocket fired' The BBC's Bashir Ahmad in Srinagar says that police report that the five people killed in Thursday's clash included three militants, an army soldier and a civilian woman. Local police chief K Rajinder Kumar told the BBC the violence occurred during a search operation by the security forces in Bandipora, about 60km (38 miles) from Srinagar. The militants and soldier were killed in a gunfight, he said, while the woman died when a rocket fired during the fighting fell on her house.