Monday Jun 25, 201211:52 PM GMT
Clashes in Kashmir after Sufi shrine fire
Kashmiris watch as firefighters try to extinguish a fire at the Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jeelani shrine in Srinagar on Monday, June 25, 2012.
Kashmiris watch as firefighters try to extinguish a fire at the Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jeelani shrine in Srinagar on Monday, June 25, 2012.
Mon Jun 25, 2012 11:48PM
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A fire has ravaged a revered Sufi Muslim shrine in Kashmir, sparking anti-India demonstrations and clashes in the region's summer capital Srinagar.


On Monday, at least 30 protesters and 10 policemen were injured as the demonstrations led to clashes with the security forces, The Associated Press reported.

The demonstrators were protesting over firefighters’ slow response to the blaze at the Sufi shrine.

It was not immediately clear what caused the fire at the 200-year-old shrine of Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jeelani, situated in the heart of Srinagar city, which houses a relic of the 11th century Sufi saint.

According to witnesses, the fire started on the upper floor on Monday morning and rapidly engulfed the wooden structure.

Saint Jeelani, globally known as Ghaus-e-Azam, is buried in the Iraqi capital Baghdad. His shrine in Srinagar has served as an important center of Islamic and spiritual teachings in Kashmir.

"The holy relics are safe and have been retrieved," a police officer said.

Police and army soldiers established barricades on roads leading to the shrine, where thousands of Kashmiri Muslims had gathered, many of them in tears.

Later, thousands of men and women flooded nearby streets, chanting anti-India slogans and calling for the liberation of Kashmir from Indian rule.

The protesters also clashed with soldiers in at least four other neighborhoods in Srinagar. The Indian security forces fired shots into the air and used tear gas to disperse the crowd.

Over the past two decades, the conflict in Kashmir has left over 47,000 people dead by the official count, although other sources say the death toll could be as high as 90,000.

Kashmir lies at the heart of more than 60 years of hostility between India and Pakistan. Both countries claim the region in full but each only has control over a section of the territory.

GJH/MF/HGL
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