At least 4 killed as BSF men open fire on protesters in J&K town

FPBodies lie in Gool in Ramban district on Thursday

At least four people were killed and 44 injured after the Border Security Force (BSF) and Jammu and Kashmir Police fired at a mob that allegedly attacked a BSF post in Gool in Ramban district Thursday morning.

The mob was protesting against the alleged manhandling by BSF personnel of a local imam, followed by the reported desecration of the Holy Quran the previous night.

The deaths triggered huge protests across the Valley, and the government responded by blocking mobile Internet services, shutting down the Jammu-Srinagar highway, clamping curfew on Ramban and putting several separatist leaders under house arrest. Separatists have called a bandh in both Jammu and Kashmir on Friday, and announced protests spread over three days.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah condemned the incident and warned that "repeating mistakes" like firing on unarmed protesters would endanger peace in the state. In New Delhi, Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said he "sincerely regretted" the loss of lives and offered his "deep condolences" to the families of the victims.

The J&K government has ordered a magisterial probe to establish the sequence of events leading up to the firing. The Centre has ordered an investigation separately.

Though the Ramban police control room confirmed four deaths, residents of the town said at least nine people had been killed. Mohammad Shafi, a local contractor, told The Indian Express over the phone from Gool that he had seen nine bodies at the scene of the firing.

A BSF personnel identified as Ramhari was said to be in critical condition after being shot in the stomach. Several of his colleagues were injured in the stone-throwing by the mob, BSF I-G (Jammu) Rajeev Krishna said. He said the BSF was "not a trigger-happy force", and had been compelled to fire after the mob tried to enter the post where a large cache of explosives and automatic weapons was stored.

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