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Srinagar tense as groups clash on Muharram

CNN-IBN
Jan 20, 2008 at 04:44pm IST

Srinagar: For the 19th consecutive year authorities have banned the main Muharram procession in Srinagar even as security was tightened in the Kashmir Valley following Shia-Sunni clashes.

Police and paramilitary troops surrounded Abi Guzar area near the city centre Lal Chowk, from where the Shia Muslims were to take out the main procession to mourn the martyrdom of Imam Hussain, grandson of Prophet Mohammed, some 1,400 years ago.

The police have erected temporary barricades in the area to foil the procession. The police also blocked a portion of Residency Road.

Several dozen mourners carrying black flags and shouting religious slogans, however, managed to reach Lal Chowk but were dispersed by the police. Srinagar, with a population of 800,000, is dominantly Sunni.

Shias live in large numbers in parts of Jammu and Kashmir, particularly in Kargil district close to the Pakistan border and in Budgam in central Kashmir.

Authorities, however, allowed small processions in Srinagar's Old City, where police and paramilitary forces have been deployed in strength.

Police earlier chased away groups of stone pelting youth in Gojwara area of the old city. The trouble erupted as a procession was passing through the area, resulting in injuries to some civilians.

Police fired tear gas and used batons to disperse the violent youths.

The situation in the Alamgari Bazzar, Zadibal, Lal Bazaar, Hawal and Gojwara areas of the capital city with sizeable population of Shia Muslims is officially stated to be tense but under control.

"We have allowed the processions in Shia areas," a police officer said here

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