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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 February 2006, 14:58 GMT
Protests in Kashmir over shooting
Police at the scene of protests in Srinagar
Police have placed many separatist leaders in preventive custody
Thousands of Kashmiris have protested for the second day in a row against the fatal shooting of four young boys, allegedly by the Indian army.

Nearly 6,000 people marched in Handwara in Indian-administered Kashmir, where the boys were killed on Wednesday.

The army says the boys were caught in crossfire with militants. That version is disputed by locals.

Both Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and the army have ordered separate inquiries into the shooting.

In Srinagar, the state's summer capital, police used tear-gas and batons to disperse protesters.

Many Kashmiri separatist leaders, including hardliner Syed Ali Geelani and Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front chairman Mohammad Yaseen Malik, have been taken into preventive custody by the police.

'Crossfire'

The protesters in Handwara carried the bodies of the dead boys and placed them in the centre of the town as a mark of protest.

The boys' bodies were later buried and protests called off after the army announced its inquiry.

Protestors in Srinagar throw stones at the police
Police used tear gas and batons to disperse protestors

The boys, who were aged between seven and 19 years, were apparently playing cricket in Handwara, nearly 80km (50 miles) from Srinagar, when they were shot.

Army spokesman, Maj Gen NK Singh, told the Associated Press news agency that the army had sealed the area after receiving news that militants were in the vicinity.

The army started firing after the militants hurled grenades at the soldiers and the boys were caught in the crossfire, he said.

But Ghulam Hassan Wani, father of an eight-year-old boy killed in the firing, told AP that the soldiers started firing when one of the boys tried to flee the scene.

"Perhaps, they were trying to catch one of the boys suspecting him of having links to the militant groups."

Separatist groups have called a two-day general strike from Friday to protest against the killings.


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