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Most of Kashmir shut for 3rd day over shrine fire

Wednesday - 6/27/2012, 5:36am  ET

By AIJAZ HUSSAIN
Associated Press

SRINAGAR, India (AP) - Thousands of Indian forces patrolled tense streets in Kashmir's main city on Wednesday as residents boycotted work for a third straight day to protest the fiery destruction of a 200-year-old Muslim shrine.

Shops, businesses and schools remained closed in Srinagar, while public buses and taxis were nowhere to be found. Police asked residents to stay indoors in parts of the city, in an effort to prevent anti-India demonstrations that could lead to violence, officer Rajendra Kumar said.

It is still unclear what started the fire Monday that destroyed a shrine that held a few relics from Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jeelani, an 11th-century saint known widely as Ghaus-e-Azam who is buried in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.

The fire sparked angry protests by thousands demanding an end to Indian rule in the disputed Himalayan territory. Several clashes erupted, with police using tear gas to disperse stone-throwing crowds, and 30 protesters and 10 officers were injured.

Separatists have dismissed the government's promise to investigate the blaze and are demanding an independent probe.

The separatists had called for a strike on Tuesday, but residents maintained it Wednesday on their own _ partly because of police restrictions, though areas not under curfew also participated in the shutdown.

"Police and soldiers are not allowing us to come out of our homes," resident Wasim Ahmed said.

Kashmir, where most people are Muslim, is divided between India and Pakistan and claimed by both. Anti-India sentiment runs deep in the Indian-administered portion, where rebel groups have fought since 1989 for independence or merger with Pakistan. More than 68,000 people have been killed in the uprising and subsequent Indian crackdown.

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