Thousands protest killing in Indian-held Kashmir

Thousands of angry villagers blocked a key highway in Indian-administered Kashmir today, accusing the army of killing a young man in custody.

The protesters, shouting "Prosecute the killers," dispersed after several hours when authorities registered a murder case against the army and ordered an inquiry, police officer Shiv Murari Sahai said.

Masood Bhat, a villager, said Indian soldiers seized 21-year-old Manzoor Ahmed Magray during a raid last night on his home in Chogal, a village 55 miles north of Srinagar, the region's main city.

His body was found early this morning by police in a nearby village, he told The Associated Press.

However, Indian army spokesman Lt. Col. J.S. Brar denied that Magray had died in military custody, saying he was fatally shot when he walked into an army ambush intended for insurgents.

Anti-India sentiment runs deep in Kashmir, a Himalayan region that is split between India and Pakistan but is claimed by both countries.

About a dozen armed rebel groups have been fighting government forces in the Indian-held portion of Kashmir for its independence or its merger with Pakistan.

More than 68,000 people, most of them civilians, have been killed in the uprising and subsequent Indian crackdown.