NEW DELHI, Aug 11: Indian security forces shot to death fiveKashmiri protesters headed for the LoC on Monday, including senior Hurriyat Conference leader Sheikh Abdul Aziz, his comrades said. Many were injured in the firing.

APHC chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, himself under house-arrest since Sunday, said from Srinagar that there was no news of the whereabouts, nor about the condition, of resistance leader Shabbir Shah who was among the estimated 250,000 Kashmiris, including women and children, to join the march to Muzaffarabad.

“The message from the fabled Indian democracy is that Kashmiris are dispensable people. They can be starved, killed and crushed at will,” the Mirwaiz said angrily on the phone. He said Mr Aziz was a respected senior leader of the APHC and was also a member of its apex executive council.

Sheikh Aziz and Shabbir Shah were leading the march when their rally was stopped by the massive force of police and army. The Mirwaiz said that thousands of mourners had gathered at Srinagar’s Jama Masjid where the body of Mr Aziz was moved from a local hospital. Large parts of the Valley were put under curfew, and it was not clear how or when the authorities would allow the burial of Mr Aziz to take place. Protests have broken out across Kashmir despite government’s imposition of curfew.

Reports said troops opened fire yet again in Bonyar outside the frontier town of Uri after the procession reached there.

Earlier in Srinagar, police fired teargas shells to disperse people assembled outside the State hospital. Three shells landed inside a ward of the hospital, a report said, quoting Dr Qureshi, superintendent of the hospital.

Meanwhile, detained Hurriyat leaders Mirwaiz Umer Farooq and Syed Ali Geelani have issued a joint statement announcing their decision to continue the march towards the LoC tomorrow.

Thousands of protesters crossed Baramullah town in north Kashmir and marched towards Muzaffarabad, to participate in a march called by the local fruit growers association to protest an ‘economic blockade’ by rival protesters in Jammu.

Security forces opened fire in Chahal, 25kms away from the border town of Uri, to disperse the massive march.

State authorities have placed all prominent separatist leaders, including Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the Mirwaiz and PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti, under house-arrest.

A complete strike across Kashmir has brought life to a grinding halt.