Over 50 shops set afire, more than 30 injured in Poonch

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Jammu, Aug 24 (UNI) Over 50 shops were set on fire and more than 30 people were injured in the communal clashes and pitched battles with police during the past 24 hours at bordering city of Poonch in Jammu and Kashmir, sources today said.

Army was conducting flag march to keep the situation under control as curfew remained enforced in Poonch today, sources in the PCR told UNI.

However, civil authorities were not available, even on telephone, for official comment on the incident which the locals said,'' had worsened due to unforced delay by the civil administration in taking action against miscreants.'' Army was called out and curfew imposed in Poonch last afternoon to control the violent mob, which continued to run riot since this morning, putting shops of minority community on fire in support of Hurriyat Conference agenda, sources said.

The entire sensitive border township of Poonch turned into a battle ground during first half of the day as mob from both the communities resorted to stone pelting on each other. The pitched battle of the mob with police also continued for several hours.

''A free for all situation was witnessed during violence (in Poonch),'' prominent local newspaper Daily Excelsior today reported.

The district administration, which of late realised the gravity of the situation, clamped curfew and sought assistance of the Army to control the tension, the daily said.

In response to the bandh call given in response to the call of Hurriyat Conference in Kashmir, people of majority community marched towards the city where shops were open.

''The situation suddenly turned violent as some youths in the procession started damaging the shops and throwing goods on the road.

They set several shops on fire and started beating the members of other community who objected to their act. It was followed by the communal clashes and stone pelting between the communities,'' a source said.

Over 30 people, including police personnel, were injured in the skirmish sources said.

An official spokesman disclosed that five columns of Army troops were dispatched to control the situation. ''People have been asked to remain indoor after the curfew imposed in the town,'' he said.

UNI VJ AE HT1258

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