Fire Destroys Muslim Shrine in Indian-Kashmir

Posted June 25th, 2012 at 12:35 pm (UTC-5)
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A fire has destroyed a revered Muslim shrine in Indian-controlled Kashmir, sparking clashes between police and local residents.

Known as Dastageer Sahib, the shrine housed the tomb of Sufi saint Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jeelani in Kashmir's main city, Srinagar. Authorities said the blaze started from the roof and quickly engulfed the more than 200-year-old wooden shrine. The cause of the fire was not immediately known.

Residents angry at what they said was a slow response by firefighters pelted them with stones and later clashed with police. Police say at least 10 police officers and 10 protesters were injured as protests spread to other parts of the city.

Authorities ordered a probe into Monday's fire. But Muslim separatists rejected the investigation and called for a general strike on Tuesday.

Kashmir's Law Minister Ali Mohammad Sagar said all the shrine's artifacts are safe. He said the damage to the shrine will be assessed in order for repair work to begin.

Kashmir is claimed in full by both India and Pakistan. Since 1989, Muslim separatists have been fighting for Kashmir's independence from Hindu-majority India or for a merger with Muslim-majority Pakistan.

The nuclear-armed neighbors have fought two wars over the Himalayan region since gaining independence from Britain in 1947.