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South Asia correspondent Mike Wooldridge
Move to contain the fallout of the police firing
 real 28k

Tuesday, 4 April, 2000, 16:51 GMT 17:51 UK
Police suspended over Kashmir deaths

Police patrols were out on the deserted streets
The authorities in Indian-administered Kashmir have suspended the police officers responsible for shooting at a demonstration in the town of Anantnag on Monday.

Pakistan in crisis
Seven people were killed when police opened fire on protesters demanding that the bodies of five men killed by security forces last month be exhumed.

The state government has also transferred three senior officers from the district - the deputy inspector-general of police, the senior superintendent of police and the deputy commissioner.

The move follows a visit to Anantnag on Tuesday by Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah.

Assembly anger

Earlier, Mr Abdullah had faced angry protests in the Kashmir state assembly as members, cutting across party lines, demanded an investigation and stiff punishment for those found guilty of the shootings.

We are all in tears, our heart goes out to those killed

Kashmir speaker Abdul Ahad Vakil
Mr Abdullah told the assembly that although there were suggestions of provocation from some demonstrators, the police could have used lesser means to disperse the crowd.

"Culprits should be hanged", "Order a high-level probe", shouted angry members as they disrupted proceedings in the house.

"We are all in tears, our heart goes out for those who have been killed and to their bereaved families," said assembly speaker Abdul Ahad Vakil.

Mr Abdullah also announced that a retired Supreme Court judge would be asked to conduct an inquiry.

Leaders released

In another development, the Indian authorities released three leaders of the main separatist alliance, the Hurriyat Conference, after more than six months in prison.

One of the leaders, Abdul Gani Bhat, said no reason had been given for their release.

Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah: Damage control
India's Home Minister, LK Advani, said in Delhi that the decision to release the leaders was "not casual".

The BBC's Mike Wooldridge says there had been speculation of such a move following President Clinton's visit to India last month.

The Hurriyat leaders had been arrested after they called for a boycott of last year's general elections.


Kashmir has been disrupted by a strike called by pro-separatist groups after the shooting.

In Anantnag itself, a strict curfew remained in force for a second day.

After the shooting, police said they had opened fire because protesters hurled stones at them.

Later, they alleged that militants in the demonstration had fired on a military camp, prompting officers to return fire.

The protesters alleged that Indian security forces had killed five innocent men last month, claiming they were militants who had massacred 35 Sikhs.

Security forces killed another six alleged militants last week.

Delhi blamed the massacre of the Sikhs - on the eve of President Clinton's historic visit to India - on Pakistani-backed separatist militants.

Militant groups denied any involvement.

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03 Apr 00 | South Asia
Kashmir protesters shot dead
25 Mar 00 | South Asia
Kashmir massacre suspect captured
05 Feb 00 | South Asia
Musharraf backs Kashmiri militants
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