Indian forces shoot dead six protesters in Kashmir

Indian paramilitary forces Thursday shot dead six people protesting at a raid by the troops on an Islamic school in Kashmir, police and witnesses said. Border Security Force (BSF) troops fired on demonstrators who had gathered outside their headquarters in the district of Gool, two police officers said on condition of anonymity. "It is mayhem. Six are dead and dozens injured. The death toll could rise further," said one officer. India's Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde ordered an investigation into the shooting and appealed for calm in the tense Himalayan region. A revolt against Indian rule has simmered for decades in Kashmir, the country's only Muslim-majority state. The insurgency has been a regular source of tensions between residents and security forces, which often spill over into violence. "I have ordered an inquiry to be conducted without any loss of time to ascertain the circumstances leading to the firing," Shinde said in a statement. "I assure that any use of excessive force or irresponsible action shall be dealt with strictly," he said. "The loss of life in this incident is particularly saddening," the minister said, without confirming the number killed. Protesters clashed with troops after an incident on Wednesday evening at the madrassa (Islamic school) attached to a mosque in Gool, witnesses said. The head of the madrassa, Qari Shabir, said four BSF troopers came in looking for militants, at the same time that a caretaker was alone there reciting prayers for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. "They beat him up...that is when Abdul Lateef (the caretaker) raised an alarm and people started to assemble and the word spread," Shabir told AFP by telephone from Gool, 230 kilometres (143 miles) south of the state's main city of Srinagar. Shabir said he later went to the madrassa and saw copies of the Koran strewn on the floor before security authorities sealed the premises. Other local residents said the troops had entered the mosque to complain about the loud recitation of prayers by worshippers during Ramadan. The angry protesters clashed outside the BSF base on Thursday with troops who started firing, witnesses said. "The BSF soldiers fired indiscriminately, downing protesters left, right and centre," one witness who declined to be identified told AFP by telephone. A top BSF officer said troops only opened fire when a "mob attacked" the base where arms and ammunition were stored, adding that one soldier was injured. "We are a professional force. We respect all the tenets of all religions," Rajeev Krishan, inspector general of the BSF, told reporters in Jammu, another main city of the region. Omar Abullah, the state's chief minister, warned that the "ghastly incident" risked igniting wider unrest. "It is highly unacceptable to shoot at unarmed protesters just because they were reportedly protesting manhandling of an imam of their area," Abdullah said in a statement. "This shocking act warrants and demands the severest of condemnation in the strongest possible terms." In a separate incident on Thursday, suspected rebels shot dead two policemen who were bodyguards of a top cardiologist, near the doctor's home in the town of Pampore, 15 kilometres south of Srinagar. "Three terrorists attacked and injured the doctor while he was walking towards a car along with his bodyguards who laid their lives on the spot," Abdul Gani Mir, Kashmir's police chief, told AFP. About a dozen rebel groups have been fighting Indian forces in Kashmir since 1989, either for independence or for a merger with Pakistan. The fighting has left tens of thousands, mostly civilians, dead. Nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan have each administered part of Kashmir since the partition of the subcontinent after the end of British rule in 1947. Each country claims the territory in full. An injured Kashmiri protester from Gool is carried through a hospital in Srinagar on July 18, 2013. Indian paramilitary forces on Thursday shot dead six people in Gool protesting at an incident involving the troops at an Islamic school in Kashmir, police said. Indian police clash with activists of the Jammu and Kashmir Libration Front (JKLF) in Srinagar on July 18, 2013 during a protest against the killing of six villager. Indian paramilitary forces Thursday shot dead six people protesting at an incident involving the troops at an Islamic school in Kashmir, police said. An Indian paramilitary trooper throws a brick towards Kashmiri protesters on on July 18, 2013 during a protest over the killing of six villagers in Srinagar. Indian paramilitary troops Thursday shot dead six people protesting outside a Border Security Force station in Kashmir, two police officers said.