Kashmir shuts against religious leader's killing

AP News
Posted: Apr 09, 2011 4:05 AM
Kashmir shuts against religious leader's killing

Shops and schools in Indian-controlled Kashmir were closed Saturday to protest the assassination of a moderate Muslim religious leader in the disputed Himalayan region.

Police said they believe Moulvi Showkat Ahmed Shah was killed by a remote-controlled bomb attached to a parked bicycle near a mosque in the territory's main city of Srinagar on Friday.

An alliance of separatist political and religious groups called for a public strike Saturday, while police and paramilitary troops set up road blocks and patrolled Srinagar's near-deserted streets, anticipating unrest.

"His death has broken our back. I will not rest till I unveil his killers," said Mohammed Yasin Malik, chairman of the pro-independence Jammu-Kashmir Liberation Front.

Thousands chanted pro-independence slogans against Indian rule at Shah's funeral Friday night.

Anti-India sentiment runs deep across much of Kashmir, where India and Pakistan each control a portion of the mountainous region and maintain heavily armed troops along a cease-fire line.

More than a dozen rebel groups have fought for decades for the territory's independence or merger with Pakistan, and more than 68,000 people have been killed in the conflict since 1989, though resistance today is mostly expressed through street protests.

Shah _ whose Jamiat-e-ahle Hadith religious group had nearly 1 million members _ had supported independence but irked the rebel groups by condemning the practice of throwing stones at government forces to express resistance to Indian rule. He survived a grenade attack on his home in 2008.

But rebel groups on Friday condemned Shah's killing and blamed "the handiwork of Indian agencies," according to a statement from the United Jehad Council of more than a dozen rebel groups based in the Pakistan-controlled portion of Kashmir.