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Fire at Muslim Shrine Sparks Protest in Indian Kashmir

  • VOA News

At least 29 people were injured in Indian Kashmir on Saturday when thousands of protesters clashed with police following a fire at a Muslim shrine.

Officials say the fire that broke out at the Jena Sahib Shrine in Kashmir's main town of Srinagar was accidental and caused by a short circuit. But Muslim residents gathered outside the burning mosque claiming paramilitary forces and police started the fire.

The mob threw stones and snatched rifles from security officials, prompting police to fire into the air and set off tear gas to disperse the crowd. At least three security personnel and six firemen were among those wounded.

Police say all the holy relics in the shrine are safe and were not damaged in the fire.

Meanwhile, shops remained closed in Srinagar on Saturday after separatists called a strike to protest the use of excessive force by police during a march that injured a separatist leader.

Shabir Shah was wounded Friday while leading a procession from a Srinagar mosque.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, but claimed in full by both. Islamic separatist groups have been fighting for independence from India or a merger with Pakistan since 1989.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed in insurgency-related violence.

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