Protesters clash with police in strike-hit Kashmir

Protesters clashed with police Saturday as a separatist strike over the alleged rape and murder of two young Muslim women paralysed Indian Kashmir for a sixth day.

The strike closed shops, schools, banks and offices in the summer capital Srinagar and other towns in the revolt-hit Muslim-majority Kashmir valley, police and witnesses said.

Police fired tear gas and swung batons to disperse hundreds of protesters in Srinagar, who retaliated by hurling stones and bricks.

"Ten protesters received minor injuries," a police officer said, adding riot police were keeping a tight vigil over protesters elsewhere.

Police said they were investigating the deaths of the 17-year-old woman and her pregnant 22-year-old sister-in-law, whose bodies were found in a shallow stream last Saturday.

Indian officials say preliminary investigations suggest drowning was the cause of death, but the families of the victims have accused the security forces of abducting, raping and killing the women.

A judicial probe has been ordered by chief minister Omar Abdullah, but it has failed to cool tempers.

Kashmir's separatist political leadership Saturday remained under house arrest, which was imposed a week earlier.

Police and paramilitary forces have also sealed with barbed wire some neighbourhoods in Srinagar, a separatist hub, and in southern Shopian town, where the two women's deaths were reported.

Earlier Saturday, the main opposition People's Democratic Party held a protest march in Srinagar.

Its leader, Mehbooba Mufti, called for the repeal of tough security laws that have given the security forces sweeping powers.

"Until the atrocities end and the forces return to the barracks, people of Kashmir cannot lead a normal life," she said.

Authorities have banned further demonstrations, in an attempt to curb the the daily protests in which one person has been killed and over 300 injured so far.

An insurgency against Indian rule in Kashmir has left more than 47,000 people dead over the past 20 years.

in Bulgaria. AP