Kashmir Muslims vent rage on US

SRINAGAR - Muslims in Indian Kashmir yesterday marked the Eid-ul Adha religious holiday with a series of anti-US demonstrations over the hanging of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.

SRINAGAR - Muslims in Indian Kashmir yesterday marked the Eid-ul Adha religious holiday with a series of anti-US demonstrations over the hanging of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.

Several hundred youths went on to the streets of Kashmir's summer capital, Srinagar, and set fire to US flags.

"Down with the US" and "Bush is the real killer", shouted the youths as riot police watched from a distance.

The Indian government, which had warm ties with Hussein's regime, said it was "disappointed" by the execution on Saturday.

Residents said prayers were said for Saddam, with imams calling him a martyr. All the demonstrations were peaceful, police said.

Eid-ul Adha marks the end of the holy pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia by millions of Muslims from all over the world.

The holiday festivities in Kashmir were also dampened by continuing separatist violence.

Two Muslim militants were killed during an overnight gun battle in the northern town of Sopore, about 50km north of Srinagar, a police official said.

"It was a fearful night as blasts and firing rattled the air," one resident said.

Three houses were reportedly damaged in the fighting.

Elsewhere in Sunni-dominated Kashmir at the weekend, militants killed a local police chief in an ambush in a busy market and a federal policeman was shot dead.

"The hanging of Saddam has brought gloom to the festival," said Ishtiaq Ahmed, a government officer, after leaving a mosque in Srinagar.

"I couldn't sleep after watching Iraqi guards tightening the noose around Saddam's neck," he said, referring to the footage of the execution aired by television channels.

"I want to cry [over Saddam's death]," said Saima Wani, an engineering student.

lNuclear-armed neighbours Pakistan and India each hold Kashmir in part but claim it in full.

India accuses Pakistan of arming Islamic separatist groups, a charge Islamabad denies. - Sapa-AFP

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