Accessibility links

Violence Erupts in Indian Kashmir Amid Staggered Elections - 2002-10-03

In Indian administered Kashmir, at least eight suspected Islamic militants and two security personnel have been killed in clashes with security forces. Violence has surged this week in the troubled region where staggered elections are being held to choose a state assembly.

Police officials say border guards shot dead at least eight suspected Islamic intruders who had crossed into Indian Kashmir from Pakistani territory. They say the militants lobbed grenades and opened fire on Indian soldiers when they were spotted and asked to surrender. An army officer was killed and two soldiers were injured in the clash.

Defense officials called it one of the biggest attempts at infiltration in recent weeks.

In another incident, police shot dead two suspected militants following a night-long gun battle some 80 kilometers south of Kashmir's winter capital, Jammu. A police officer was also killed in the fighting.

Police suspect the rebels were involved in an attack on a bus that took place earlier this week in the same area. Eight civilians were killed in that incident.

Several policemen and a civilian were also injured when a police vehicle ran over a landmine in Shopian town, about 50 kilometers south of Kashmir's summer capital, Srinagar. It was the third such attack on Indian security personnel in as many days.

Violence has surged in the troubled region since the third round of voting was held earlier this week.

Deputy Inspector General of police in Kashmir, A.K. Suri, says many of the recent victims have been civilians and soldiers.

"Having failed in their designs to stop people from coming out and voting in large numbers, the terrorists have taken to killing of innocent people, they are targeting the security forces," Inspector Suri said.

Muslim militant groups waging a separatist insurgency in the region have vowed to derail the polls and have threatened to kill anyone who participates in the election. Three round of voting have been held, the last round takes place next Tuesday.

Indian officials say cross-border movement of rebels has increased since early August when state elections were announced and accuse Islamabad of going back on its promise to stop infiltration of separatist militants from Pakistani territory into Indian Kashmir. Islamabad says it has done all it can to end the infiltration of militants.

Political analysts say the stepped up violence in Kashmir will make it difficult to ease tensions between the two countries, who have massed nearly a million soldiers along their common border since last December, when India blamed Pakistani-backed militants for an attack on its parliament.