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Political Workers Killed in Kashmir

September 5, 2002

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SRINAGAR, India (AP) _ Suspected Islamic militants gunned down two political workers Thursday ahead of elections in Indian-controlled Kashmir, police there said.

A group of suspected rebels barged into the home of Mustafa Lone, a member of the state of Jammu-Kashmir’s ruling National Conference party, and shot him to death, a police officer said on condition of anonymity. It happened in the town of Kunzer, about 20 miles north of Srinagar, Jammu-Kashmir’s summer capital.

Separately, Mohammed Amin of the state opposition People’s Democratic Party, was shot when he answered a knock at the door at the home of a party candidate, Mohammed Abbas Khan. The officer said the gunmen may have mistaken Amin for Khan.

That shooting took place in the town of Wanabal, just outside Srinagar.

The People’s Democratic Party is emerging as a significant force in state legislative elections, which are to begin in less than two weeks.

In both cases, the gunmen fled.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but police blamed Islamic insurgents, who want Kashmiris to boycott the elections. Violence has been increasing in Kashmir in recent weeks, apparently aimed at scaring voters, political workers and government officials ahead of the polls.

India accuses Pakistan of training and arming Islamic militants who slip across the border into Indian-controlled Kashmir to fight security forces and attack government targets. Islamabad says it provides only moral and diplomatic support to the men they call ``freedom fighters.″

The 12-year insurgency has claimed some 60,000 lives. Jammu-Kashmir is the only Muslim majority state in India, where most people are Hindus.

The separatists have called for an election boycott, saying past votes have been rigged in favor of a pro-India regional party.

The Indian government hopes that peaceful and transparent voting will ease violence and deflate support for the separatist movement. The voting will take place from mid-September to early October.

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