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Saturday, 16 February, 2002, 11:56 GMT
Kashmir strike over civilian deaths
Relatives of handicapped man shot dead in Kashmir
Relatives mourn a handicapped man killed on Wednesday
By the BBC's Altaf Hussain in Srinagar

Indian-administered Kashmir has been disrupted by a general strike held in protest against reports of the killings of innocent civilians by the Indian security forces.

Shops in most parts of the Kashmir Valley did not open and many government staff stayed away from work.

The state Chief Minister, Farooq Abdullah has joined the voices of protest.

The strike follows the killing of a 50-year-old man, Abdul Ahad Bhat, by Indian troops.

Flag burned

Mr Bhat was shot dead during a raid on his house in the town of Baramullah on Tuesday night.

The incident triggered a massive demonstration in the town on Wednesday with more than 10,000 men and women taking to the streets and burning India's national flag.

Srinagar patrol
Two people have been killed in Srinagar this week

The state government has put on record that Mr Bhat was an innocent citizen.

Chief minister Farooq Abdullah wrote to India's Defence Minister, George Fernandes, demanding court martial proceedings against the soldiers involved in the killing.

Observers say Mr Abdullah has reacted the way he has because his government is completing its six-year term in October this year and will have to face re-election.

However, there have been at least two more killings in the Kashmir Valley in as many days after the killing of Mr Bhat.

A handicapped civilian, Mohammad Maqbool Baba, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen at Rawalpora in the outskirts of Srinagar on Wednesday night.

The authorities blamed the killing on militants.

But local residents who held a protest demonstration the next day said the assassins were pro-India militiamen working with the Indian security forces.

Hit by bullet

In another incident, the Indian security forces returned the body of a resident of Soura in Srinagar on Friday barely 12 hours after he had been arrested.

The authorities say he was a militant and was hit by a bullet when a police party taking him to a detention centre came under fire from a group of militants.

Local residents have dismissed the government's version as a cover-up for what they say is a simple custodial killing.

The strike has been called by a government staff union, the Employees Joint Action Committee (EJAC) and the separatist alliance, All Party Hurriyat Conference.

The EJAC has warned the government of direct action if such killings are not stopped.

See also:

07 Feb 02 | South Asia
Vajpayee hits back at Pakistan
22 Dec 01 | South Asia
Kashmir killings prompt security review
18 Feb 02 | South Asia
Three killed 'in Pakistani shelling'
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