In a sudden flare-up of violence in Kashmir today, 17 people, including a policeman, were killed and over 70 injured with mobs torching several government properties and a school, some of the trouble triggered by a TV report alleging desecration of the Quran in the US.
The state cabinet, which met this evening, condemned the alleged act of desecration and made a fervent appeal to the people not to take law in their own hands.
In New Delhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh voiced concern over the ongoing unrest in Jammu and Kashmir. He also sought to reach out to the people in the state, saying their grievances have to be addressed and promised talks within the Indian Constitution with those who abjure violence.
Five persons were killed and more than 20 injured in firing by security forces at Tangmarg, 45km from Srinagar, in Baramulla district after protesters went on a rampage setting ablaze a private school, run by a minority educational group, following the report of desecration.
DGP Kuldeep Khoda said 41 persons were seriously injured and they included 2 SPs one of whom was airlifted from Bandipora to Srinagar.
He said a mob torched a Block Development Office, court chamber, tehsildar's official vehicle and residence, social welfare office, patwari office and two huts of tourism department.
The agitators then attacked a police station and tried to ransack it, prompting the security forces to fire at them.
While two youths Muddasir Ahmad Parray and Abdul Majid were declared dead at the nearby Magam Sub District Hospital, another youth succumbed to injuries at a city hospital here. He has been identified as Abdul Qayoom, officials at the hospitals said.
Two injured youths, identified as Afaq Ahmad Khan and Tariq Ahmad Ganai, were declared dead on arrival at a city hospital.
Another mob attacked a security forces camp at Humhama in Budgam district, prompting retaliatory fire in which two were killed.
In Charar-e-Sharief, protesters pelted stones at a CRPF camp, Deputy Commissioner, Budgam, Rafi Ahmed said. The CRPF personnel resorted to firing to disperse the mob. Seven persons were injured one of whom succumbed to his injuries.
A woman died on the spot when she was hit by a stray bullet inside her residential compound at Ompora in Budgam.
A policeman, Devender Singh, was killed when he was run over by a vehicle while chasing a stone-pelting mob also in Budgam.
In another clash in Bandipora, one person was killed and two others injured when security forces opened fire to quell a stone-pelting mob, police said.
Three persons lost their lives in clashes in Pampore town of Pulwama district and other parts of the Valley while a youth injured in firing allegedly by security forces succumbed in hospital.
A teenaged boy was killed and another critically injured when security forces allegedly opened fire to disperse a stone-pelting mob in Anantnag district of South Kashmir late in the evening, police sources said.
Aaqib Ahmad Wagay and Firdous Ahmad were hit by bullets when security forces opened fire in self-defence after their vehicle was attacked by a stone-pelting mob near Lazibal, 60 kms from here, the sources said. Both the injured youth were taken to hospital where Wagay was declared dead.
One person was killed in a firing incident at Chanakhan in Sopore area of Baramulla district, the sources said.
Conflicting reports were, however, received as to who opened fire that killed Rafiq Ahmad Teli but a police spokesman said he was felled by a bullet fired by militants who tried to target security forces.
The spokesman said one policeman was also injured in the firing by the ultras.
A mob set on fire the house of a police constable at Kreeri in Pattan area of the district as he was posted at police station Tangmarg where five persons were killed in police firing. One of the deceased was a resident of Pattan area.
Today's violence coincided with the call of hardline faction of Hurriyat Conference headed by Syed Ali Shah Geelani for a march to the local office of the United Nations Military observors at Sonawar here. The march was, however, foiled by the authorities with the strict implementation of the curfew in the city.
A youth was feared dead after he jumped into a river to escape arrest while being chased by security forces at Khannabal, 55 kms from here in Anantnag district.
Two others also jumped along with the youth but they managed to swim to safety. Efforts are on to trace the missing youth, the sources
Jammu and Kashmir government, meanwhile, banned an international news channel, Press TV, after it aired the report about alleged desecration of the holy book.
"The transmission of Press TV in Jammu and Kashmir has been banned with immediate effect," State Chief Secretary S S Kapur told reporters here.
He said the move was prompted after reports of the sacrilege act. Also, the channel was not registered with the Union Information and Broadcasting Ministry as required under the law.