14 killed in Valley, govt buildings torched

Written by Political Bureau | Srinagar | Updated: Sep 15 2010, 04:32am hrs
At least 14 people, including a policeman, were killed and 75 injured today as anti-government protests and demonstrations over reports of the desecration of Koran in US rocked the Kashmir Valley. It was the biggest single death toll from protests in the Valley in years.

The toll includes at least seven people killed in police clashes after protesters set fire to a Christian missionary school and government buildings in two Valley districts to denounce reports that copies of the Koran had been damaged in the US.

The police said these demonstrations quickly turned into separatist protests against the governmenta day after authorities slapped a curfew on much of the Valley.

Crowds massed in Budgam and Tangmarg areas, chanting slogans denouncing the US. They set fire to government buildings and a school owned by a Protestant church, witnesses and officials said. The mob torched the block development office, court chamber, tehsildars official vehicle and residence, social welfare office, patwari office and two huts of the tourism department, the officials said. The protesters then attacked a police station and tried to ransack it, prompting the security forces to fire at them.

They appeared to be inflamed by reports on the Iranian state-run channel Press TV that the Koran was desecrated over the weekend in the US. Most broadcasters around the world did not prominently report on scattered desecration incidents by a handful of fringe anti-Muslim activists in the US; the Iranian broadcaster carried the footage repeatedly.

The protesters chanted Down with Koran desecrators, and protest leaders denounced the alleged desecration in speeches to the crowds. There were also shouts of Down with America and Down with Israelrarely heard in Kashmir. As the protests worsened, the station was removed from local cable networks at the insistence of state authorities.

US Ambassador Timothy Roemer said the US government was dismayed by reports of the rioting and appealed for calm.