Residents in India-administered Kashmir are observing a shutdown, called for by religious and separatist leaders in protest at the killing of four civilians by paramilitary forces in Ramban district.

A curfew was enforced across the Kashmir valley on Friday to stop any further protests, as separatists called for a three-day strike.

More than 40 people were wounded in the firing on Thursday in Gool town of Ramban district, about 145km from the main city, Srinagar, when people were protesting against what they said was the desecration of the Quran by the Border Security Force (BSF) personnel.

One resident said the whole of Kashmir had been shut down.

"Today the whole of Kashmir is closed as there was an incident in Ramban yesterday and so we are observing a peaceful shutdown. There is a curfew on the call of Hurriyat [separatist] leaders for three days," Lateef Ahmad said.

The annual Amarnath Yatra performed by Hindu pilgrims in the Kashmir Valley has been halted, local news channel NDTV reported.

'Ghastly' incident

India's Interior Minister, Sushilkumar Shinde, on Thursday ordered an inquiry into the shooting and appealed for calm in the tense Himalayan region.

It is highly unacceptable to shoot at unarmed protesters just because they were reportedly protesting manhandling of an imam of their area.

Omar Abdullah, chief minister

Omar Abullah, the state's chief minister, warned that the "ghastly incident" risked igniting wider unrest.

"It is highly unacceptable to shoot at unarmed protesters just because they were reportedly protesting manhandling of an imam of their area," Abdullah said in a statement.

Rajiv Krishan, the inspector general of the BSF, said his men and police fired to disperse a violent mob trying to get into a post where arms and ammunition were stored.

Protesters said four members of the BSF had barged into an Islamic school in Dadad village on Wednesday night and beaten students and desecrated the Quran.

Krishan rejected the protesters' accusation, saying "anti-national elements" had instigated the protest.

A revolt against Indian rule has simmered for decades in Kashmir, the country's only Muslim-majority state.

The region is divided between India and Pakistan, both of which claim all of the territory.

They have fought two of their three wars over the region.

Source: Agencies