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Tuesday, 1 October, 2002, 14:33 GMT 15:33 UK
Violence mars Kashmir voting
Kashmiri polling station
Voting is taking place in four stages across Kashmir
Polls have closed in the third phase of voting in elections in Indian-administered Kashmir after a day marred by violent attacks.

Turnout in the four districts of Anantnag, Pulwama, Udhampur and Kathua averaged 41% but varied widely between the different areas, according to India's Election Commission.


The militant activity during voting was the highest compared to the other phases

Deputy Election Commissioner Sayan Chatterjee
The day-long voting was marked by a spate of violent incidents which left at least 15 people dead.

The polls - to chose a new assembly for the state - have been boycotted by separatist groups and militants fighting Indian rule have threatened to kill those taking part.

India has deployed some 45,000 extra troops in an effort to prevent the vote being disrupted.

Attacks

In the latest violence, at least six paramilitary soldiers were killed and two others seriously wounded when their vehicle hit a landmine in the southern district of Pulwama.

Earlier, nine civilians were killed after suspected militants attacked a passenger bus minutes before voting was to begin in the district of Kathua.

The voter turnout was the lowest of the three voting phases so far.

Voter turnout
Kathua 59%
Udhampur 56%
Pulwama 28%
Anantnag 25%
The atmosphere on the eve of the polling was very tense owing to a spate of violent of attacks and it became worse after the attack on the bus passengers.

The Election Commission said the turnout and voter enthusiasm would have been better had violence not erupted.

In some areas, polling stations were totally deserted.

This was especially true of polling booths in the towns of Tral and Bijbehera.

Better show

In a polling station in Bijbehera only one voter had been able to exercise his franchise.

Indian soldiers
The violence in some areas was the worst so far
Some polling booths were secured with barbed wire and most had soldiers or paramilitary troops guarding them.

Armoured vehicles patrolled towns.

But the situation was different in the two districts of Udhampur and Kathua.

Here the separatist movement is not as strong as in the other two districts because of a large population of Hindus.

The turnout in these areas was reasonably high.

The last of the four rounds of voting will take place on 8 October.

Correspondents say India hopes the four-round poll - which ends next week - will quell growing protests against its rule in the region.

Neighbouring Pakistan has denounced the vote as a poor substitute for the plebiscite it wants for the people of Kashmir to decide between Pakistani and Indian sovereignty.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Satish Jacob
"The men wearing police uniforms flagged down the bus"
The BBC's Altaf Hussein in Srinagar
"Adequate security measures had been taken, but the security wasn't foolproof"
Click here fror background reports and analysis

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See also:

30 Sep 02 | South Asia
24 Sep 02 | South Asia
21 Sep 02 | South Asia
15 Sep 02 | South Asia
20 Sep 02 | South Asia
14 Sep 02 | South Asia
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