SRINAGAR - Occupied Kashmir completely shut down Wednesday after separatists called a strike in protest at the killing of four youth whose bullet-riddled bodies were discovered in an orchard two days earlier. The Kashmiri leaders say they died in police custody. Shops and schools were closed and university exams cancelled as workers went on strike, while hundreds of police and paramilitary troops patrolled the main city of Srinagar and other major towns.

Hurriyat leaders opposed to Indian rule were detained by police or confined to their homes to prevent them from leading demonstrations.

Call for the strike was given by Syed Ali Geelani, Shabbir Ahmad Shah and Muhammad Yasin Malik, against the cold-blooded murder of the youth. It was also supported by other Hurriyet leaders. “We are investigating the killings, but it seems these are a result of group rivalry among the militants,” K Rajendra, director general of police for Occupied Kashmir, said in a try to hide facts. Bullet-riddled bodies of four youth identified as Muhammad Amir Reshi, Ashiq Hussain Wani, Naveed Ahmad Khan and Manzoor Ahmad Reshi were recovered from an orchard in Pattan and Kunzer in Tangmarg.

Police later claimed that they were local freedom fighters who had joined a splinter faction of Kashmir’s largest rebel group, Hizbul Mujahideen, months earlier — a claim denied by the group. “This outfit does not exist. The trio were active members of the Hizbul Mujahideen and were killed in custody,” the group’s top commander Syed Sallahudin said in a statement published in local newspapers Tuesday.