Indian troops clash with Kashmiri Muslims protesting latest caricature of Prophet Muhammad

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SRINAGAR, India — Government forces in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir fired warning shots and tear gas Friday to disperse Muslim protesters angry at the publication of a caricature of Prophet Muhammad in the latest issue of the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.

Protests broke out in the main city of Srinagar after Friday prayers, with worshippers carrying placards reading "Down with Charlie" and chanting slogans against Indian rule.

Security forces fired shots and tear gas in at least at three places, while the protesters responded with rocks, police said. There were no reports of injuries.

Police detained a top pro-independence leader, Mohammed Yasin Malik, who had called the protests and a day-long strike over the magazine's latest issue, which shows a drawing of a tearful Prophet Muhammad holding a sign saying "I am Charlie" in French. It was published following a Jan. 7 attack on the magazine's Paris office that killed 12 people.

Thousands of people also rallied in cities across Pakistan against the French magazine, although the demonstrations remained peaceful.

In the capital of Islamabad, hundreds of people gathered outside the famed Red Mosque, which has been a center of religious extremism in the country, after Friday prayers. Later, thousands of supporters of the Jamaat-e-Islami political party attended a rally in another part of the capital.

Smaller protests were also held in other cities, including Peshawar, Karachi, Multan and Lahore.

"Europe is challenging the faith of Muslims. They are teasing Muslims by the desecration of prophets," said Siraj ul-Haq, the head of Jamaat-e-Islami, at a rally in Islamabad.

Many Muslims believe their faith forbids depictions of the prophet.

The region has witnessed several protests against the latest cartoon, but Friday's strike was the first major reaction in Kashmir since the Paris attacks.

"By encouraging and allowing the reproduction of the highly provocative and insulting caricatures of our beloved prophet, the West has contemptuously disregarded sensitivities of the Muslim world," wrote Hassan Zainagairee, a columnist in Greater Kashmir, the region's largest English newspaper.

Pakistani officials have condemned the violence against the French magazine, but have also objected to the magazine's decision to publish another image of the Prophet Muhammad on its first cover after the shooting. Many Muslims view such acts as deliberate attempts to humiliate them and incite violence.

"We don't understand why they play with our emotions," said Roz Din, one of the protesters in Islamabad. "They want us to take action and then we are called terrorists."

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, and both have claimed it in its entirety since British colonialists left in 1947.

Since 1989, several rebel groups have been fighting to win Kashmir's independence or have the Indian-controlled portion merge with Pakistan.

More than 68,000 people, mainly civilians, have died in the armed uprising and subsequent Indian military crackdown.


Associated Press writer Rebecca Santana in Islamabad contributed to this report.

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