Kashmir protests over assault on Gaza, 50 injured

Fri Jan 2, 2009 9:37am EST

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SRINAGAR, India Jan 2 (Reuters) - At least 50 people were injured when baton-wielding police in Indian Kashmir fired teargas shells on Friday to disperse hundreds of Muslims protesting at Israeli strikes on Gaza, police and witnesses said.

There were also demonstrations in other Indian cities, including New Delhi and Hyderabad.

In Kashmir's summer capital Srinagar, angry demonstrators shouting "Down with Zionist terrorism, down with Israel" burnt American and Israeli flags near Kashmir's grand mosque Jamia Masjid.

Police also clashed with stone-throwing demonstrators in several other parts of the city. Most of the protests were staged after Friday prayers.

"Policemen and some photojournalists are among the injured," Mohammad Syed, a police official said.

Israel says the attacks, which have killed more than 400 people, are designed to stop Hamas Islamists who rule the Gaza Strip from firing rockets on towns in the Jewish state.

Around 250 Muslims in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad also protested against the offensive outside the recently opened U.S. consulate on Friday, police said.

They tried to set fire to an effigy of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert but were stopped by police. There were further large protests in the Muslim-majority old part of the city.

A Reuters witness saw similar scenes in the capital, New Delhi, as protesters gathered outside India's largest mosque, similarly called Jama Masjid, to burn Israeli and American flags and an effigy.

The Indian government has joined international calls for a halt to the conflict, and promised $1 million in financial aid to affected families in Gaza.

In Srinagar earlier on Friday, the chief priest of Kashmir and senior separatist leader, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, led thousands of worshippers in a mass prayer for the slain Palestinians.

"Why is the world community silent when innocent, unarmed Muslims are killed in hundreds by Israel? It is a naked aggression," Farooq said at the city's grand mosque.

"Muslim countries must unite to fight for the liberation of Palestine, Iraq , Afghanistan and Kashmir."

Kashmir, which was hit by massive anti-India protests last year, is India's only Muslim-majority state. Officials say more than 47,000 people have been killed since simmering discontent against Indian rule turned into a full-blown rebellion in 1989. (Reporting By Sheikh Mushtaq; Editing By Matthias Williams and Sugita Katyal)



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