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More Election-Related Bloodshed in Indian Kashmir - 2002-09-20


There has been more election-related violence in Indian-administered Kashmir. Officials say another political activist from India's ruling party has been shot dead, the fourth such killing this week. Also, security forces killed three militants allegedly trying to infiltrate Indian territory. Meanwhile, India's top election official has reviewed security arrangements for the second round of polls in Kashmir's state assembly elections, which are scheduled to be held on Tuesday.

More than 400 people have been killed in election-related violence in recent weeks. Much of the violence has been blamed on suspected Islamic militants who have threatened to kill anyone participating in the polls. Most of the political victims are from the ruling party.

Addressing an election rally close to Srinagar, Kashmir's Chief Minister, Farooq Abdullah, charged that Pakistan was responsible for the violence. "You don't see the coercion from Pakistan," he said. "You don't see how they are threatening, how they are killing my workers everyday. You don't see that."

Meanwhile, defense officials say three Islamic militants were killed in an exchange of fire with Indian troops along the line of control that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan. A Defense Ministry statement said it was the seventh such incident in the last three weeks. The statement accused Pakistan of stepping up infiltration from its territory into India.

A day earlier, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf told a security conference in Islamabad that his government was neither allowing, nor sponsoring militant incursions from Pakistani territory.

He said, if India, which has a larger force deployed, cannot seal the line of control, it should not expect this from Pakistan.

Amid the surge of violence, election officials from New Delhi visited Srinagar, one of the several areas where voting will be held Tuesday. Srinagar is the hub of a Muslim separatist insurgency that has raged since 1989 in Kashmir, and the polls there will be closely watched. It is also the stronghold of many political separatist leaders, who have called for a boycott of the elections.

Chief Election Commissioner J.M. Lyngdoh said all arrangements have been made for a free and fair poll. He denied reports that soldiers had forced people to vote during the first round of voting, saying there was no coercion or intimidation.

The first round of voting was held earlier this week. Monday Indian authorities had reported a higher-than expected turnout of 47 percent. The four-phase election concludes on October 8.

Meanwhile, defense officials say three Islamic militants were killed in an exchange of fire with Indian troops along the the line of control that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan. A Defense Ministry statement said it was the seventh such incident in the last three weeks. The statement accused Pakistan of stepping up infiltration from its territory into India.

A day earlier, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf told a security conference in Islamabad that his government was neither allowing, nor sponsoring militant incursions from Pakistani territory.

He said if India - which has a larger force deployed cannot seal the line of control - it should not expect this from Pakistan.

Amid the surge of violence, election officials from New Delhi visited Srinagar, one of the several areas where voting will be held Tuesday. Srinagar is the hub of a Muslim separatist insurgency that has raged since 1989 in Kashmir, and the polls there will be closely watched. It is also the stronghold of many political separatist leaders, who have called for a boycott of the elections.

Chief Election Commissioner J.M. Lyngdoh said all arrangements have been made for a free and fair poll. He denied reports that soldiers had forced people to vote during the first round of voting, saying there was no coercion or intimidation.

The first round of voting was held earlier this week. Monday Indian authorities had reported a higher-than expected turnout of 47 percent. The four phase election concludes on October 8.

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