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Monday, 23 September, 2002, 16:53 GMT 17:53 UK
Fresh violence ahead of Kashmir vote
Troops battle militants at polling station
Indian troops have faced a string of militant attacks
Police in Indian-administered Kashmir say at least seven people have died, with 24 injured, in a number of violent incidents on the eve of a second round of voting for elections to the regional assembly.

Officials arriving ready for the second round of elections.
Officials arrive for the second round of polls
Militants thought to be on a suicide mission killed one policeman and took three others hostage in the state capital Srinagar, before being surrounded in an abandoned building.

A soldier on patrol was killed and a soldier and a civilian wounded when separatists triggered an explosion in Udhampur, police say.

And on Sunday night at least five people were killed in a gun battle in the town of Tulial, close to the Line of Control that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan.


I don't think there has been any change in Pakistan's style of thinking

Atal Behari Vajpayee
In the last few days militants have launched a string of attacks on security forces and party workers in the state.

Militants have pledged to derail the state assembly elections, which are being staggered over four stages due to security concerns.

Srinagar and two other districts, including the state's second city of Jammu, will vote on Tuesday but other violence-hit areas in southern Jammu will vote in the last round on 8 October.

Fears of repeat

On Sunday, security forces also killed a militant, ending a siege at a police camp housing families of servicemen.

Sunday's siege had fanned fears of a repeat of the raids in May on an army camp that brought India and Pakistan close to war.
Motorcyclist being frisked at a checkpoint
Roads to polling districts are heavily guarded

Islamic militants have staged a series of attacks in protest at the elections and to scare voters and party election workers.

More than 470 people, including a state minister and about 30 political workers, have been killed since the elections were called on 2 August.

India has viewed the level of violence during the elections as a key test of Pakistan's pledge to stop militants crossing into Indian Kashmir.

Pakistan

Pakistan, which rejects the poll as a farce, has insisted all incursions have halted except those by rogue elements.

However, Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said before a four-day visit to the Maldives that Pakistan appeared to have failed to deliver on its pledge to curb the militants.

The main separatist alliance has called for a general strike on Tuesday during the second stage of voting.

The first round last week saw wide variations in voter turnout between districts.

It was largely peaceful but officials have said violence could escalate over the remaining three rounds.

The third round of the staggered poll will be on 1 October. The election concludes on 10 October with the counting of votes.

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See also:

22 Sep 02 | South Asia
21 Sep 02 | South Asia
19 Sep 02 | South Asia
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