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10 Dead in Kashmir Attacks - 2002-10-02

In Indian-administered Kashmir, a series of attacks have claimed the lives of at least 10 people, including five soldiers, two bus passengers and three political workers. The violence is being blamed on Islamic militants seeking to disrupt ongoing state elections in the region.

The violence continued at dawn Wednesday, when a bomb exploded in a bus soon after it set off on its journey from Kashmir's winter capital, Jammu. Most of the passengers were pilgrims on their way to visit a popular Hindu shrine. At least two of them died, many of the others were seriously injured. The bus was engulfed in flames.

Just an hour later, a group of paramilitary soldiers was killed when suspected Muslim militants triggered a land mine, about 40 kilometers south of the summer capital, Srinagar.

In a third incident, three workers from the ruling National Conference Party were shot dead in a village in the border district of Kupwara, about 100 kilometers north of Srinagar.

Wednesday's violence came just a day after the third round of polling in the four-phase election to choose a state assembly. It was the bloodiest round of balloting held, so far. More than 15 people were killed in separate attacks on polling stations, police vehicles and a passenger bus.

Kashmi Police Chief A.K. Suri blames the surge of violence on Islamic militants, who have vowed to disrupt the polls. "This is happening because of the desperation of terrorists," said Chief Suri. "Despite the terrorist violence, the elections are progressing well, and the militants are not happy because people have come out to vote in substantial numbers."

Indian officials say they are satisfied with the voter turnout, which the election commission has reported at 40-47 percent in the three rounds of voting held so far.

The turnout has varied widely, from region to region. It has been substantial in areas less affected by militancy, but very low in others where separatist insurgents have a stronger influence.

More than 500 people have been killed in election-related incidents, this year. The victims include security personnel, candidates and political workers. The election for the 87-member state assembly will be completed next Tuesday.

The Islamic separatist insurgency flared in Indian Kashmir in 1989. India hopes the elections will prove its contention that support for the militancy is waning. Pakistani officials have called the elections a farce.