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Page last updated at 14:14 GMT, Sunday, 24 August 2008 15:14 UK

Kashmir under indefinite curfew

Journalists carry injured colleague
Local journalists say 15 of their colleagues were beaten up by police

The authorities in Indian-administered Kashmir have imposed an indefinite curfew throughout the Kashmir Valley.

But protests by the Muslim majority population have continued, with one person killed and another wounded as police fired on a crowd in Srinagar.

A major rally is planned for the region's main city on Monday.

The valley is already paralysed by a three-day strike called by separatist groups who want an end to Indian rule, with shops banks and schools shut.

Thousands of troops were drafted in to patrol Srinagar's streets.

Federal police opened fire on protesters who defied the curfew and took to the streets shouting pro-freedom slogans. Authorities say a number of people were injured when police fired tear gas elsewhere in the valley.

Local media say 15 journalists were among those beaten by Indian police as they tried to cover the protest, despite having curfew passes.

The strikers want a referendum which they hope will lead to self-determination for the region.

'Repression' claims

On Friday, hundreds of thousands of Muslims took part in a protest rally called by separatist leaders in Srinagar.

Indian Central Reserve Police Force troopers in Srinagar, 24/08
Thousands of troops are enforcing the curfew in Srinagar

The authorities announced the curfew early on Sunday, saying it was a "precautionary measure".

Reports suggested police had carried out raids on separatists homes overnight on Saturday.

Muslim leaders say Monday's rally will go ahead despite the curfew.

"They are scared of our peaceful but massive demonstrations for freedom," Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, one of Kashmir's main pro-independence politicians, told AFP news agency.

"Such repressive measures will not work. We will emerge stronger and more vibrant," he said.

The strike comes amid continuing separatist violence in the region.

Fifteen people died in a gun battle on Friday between militants and the authorities near the Line of Control - the de facto border dividing Kashmir between India and Pakistan.

Army officials said three soldiers were critically wounded during the battle, which they said was the fiercest this year in Kashmir.

The recent trouble started when the state government said it would grant 99 acres (40 hectares) of forest land to the Amarnath Shrine Board.

Muslims launched violent protests, saying the allocation of land was aimed at altering the demographic balance in the area.

The government said the board needed the land to erect huts and toilets for visiting pilgrims.

But following days of protests, the government rescinded the order, prompting Hindu groups to mount violent protests of their own.


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