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State Minister Killed in Kashmir

September 11, 2002

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SRINAGAR, India (AP) _ Suspected Islamic militants gunned down a state minister and 12 others Wednesday in separate attacks in Indian-controlled Kashmir, police said.

Mushtaq Ahmad Lone, law minister for Jammu-Kashmir state, was killed with five supporters in the village of Lalpora, nearly 70 miles north of Srinagar, a police officer said on condition of anonymity.

Initial reports indicate Lone was killed in a hail of gunfire while addressing a rally in Lalpora, said Davindra Rana, a spokesman for the ruling National Conference party in Jammu-Kashmir.

Police, however, said suspected Islamic guerrillas detonated a land mine and opened fire as Lone arrived in the village nearly 70 miles north of Srinagar, for the election rally.

The explosion blew up two vehicles, including the one Lone was traveling in, said a spokesman for the police in Kupwara.

Lone, who belonged to the pro-India National Conference party, died on the spot, he said. Five of his supporters also were killed and more than a dozen others were wounded in the attack.

Suspected insurgents also opened fire at a bus station in Surankot, a town 125 miles northwest of Jammu, killing at least seven people, including four Border Security Force soldiers, and wounding another six, police said.

Lone was the second candidate to be killed since the campaigning for the state elections began last month. On Friday, guerrillas gunned down Sheikh Abdul Rehman, a nominee of the Bahujan Samaj Party, a group representing India’s lower castes.

The rebels have intensified attacks on politicians defying their call to boycott the elections to begin next Monday. On Tuesday, insurgents attacked two other National Conference leaders, but they survived.

The Islamic militants, who reject Indian control over the Himalayan province, had pledged to disrupt the crucial elections. The rebels have been fighting Indian security forces since 1989 to carve out an independent state or to merge with Pakistan, India’s neighbor and bitter rival.

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