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India's Kashmir Minister Dies at 79 of Pneumonia

FILE - Jammu and Kashmir state chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed waves during the graduation parade of newly recruits of the state police in Manigham, northeast of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir.

Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, chief minister of India's northern state of Jammu and Kashmir, died Thursday in a New Delhi hospital of pneumonia.

Sayeed was hospitalized two weeks ago.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to Twitter to offer condolences, saying Sayeed "provided a healing touch to Kashmir through his leadership."

Sayeed, 79, one of the country's best-known Muslim politicians, took over as chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir state for the second time last March, after serving in the same role between 2002 and 2005.

He was appointed India's first Muslim home minister in 1989.

Sayeed is survived by his wife, three daughters and a son. He is expected to be succeeded as chief minister by his daughter Mehbooba Mufti, who leads the moderate People's Democratic Party (PDP), which Sayeed founded in 1999.

Kashmir has been claimed by both India and Pakistan since 1947. The two countries have fought two wars over control of the Himalayan territory.

Since the 1990s, several rebel groups have been fighting Indian forces deployed in India-controlled Kashmir. The groups are seeking independence or a merger of the territory with Pakistan.

Sayeed advocated dialogue to settle the dispute with Pakistan.