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Wednesday, 11 September, 2002, 16:38 GMT 17:38 UK
Minister killed in Kashmir
Family grieving at Kashmir funeral
Relatives grieve at Mr Lone's residence
Two separate attacks by suspected militants have left 18 people dead in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Among those killed are a senior politician, four Indian army soldiers and a number of civilians.

Grieving relatives of Mr Lone
Violence has overshadowed the campaign

Militant groups opposed to Indian rule in Kashmir have vowed to disrupt local assembly elections scheduled to be held later this month and correspondents say the violence is believed to be linked to that threat.

More details are awaited about the attack that killed the Law Minister Mushtaq Ahmad Lone.

News reports quoting police sources say the 45-year-old Mr Lone was killed while on his way to an election rally near the line of control dividing Kashmir between India and Pakistan.

But a government official told the BBC he had heard that the minister was killed after he reached the rally.

Violent elections

This is the first time that a minister has been killed during an election campaign in the troubled state already overshadowed by violence.

Kashmiri man reads election posters in Srinagar
Separatists are boycotting the polls

The incident came within days of the killing of an independent candidate last week.

In another part of the state, four Indian soldiers, a 12-year-old girl and two others were shot dead as they stood waiting for a bus by the road.

Five other civilians later succumbed to their injuries as panic spread at a nearby election rally.

Correspondents say in both cases Muslim separatist militants are the automatic suspects.

The killing of a senior politician like Mr Lone is bound to aggravate already tense relations between India and Pakistan, correspondents say.

Security

The BBC's Daniel Lak in Delhi says the attack has thrown the state authorities into confusion.

Security in advance of local assembly elections was supposed to be tight.

Muslim militant groups that have been fighting against Indian rule in the territory for more than a decade had vowed to disrupt the campaign and the balloting.

Two little known militant groups have claimed responsibility for Wednesday's attack.

Mr Lone's political party, currently in power in Indian Kashmir, favours autonomy, but under Indian sovereignty.

The militants back Pakistan's claim to all of Kashmir's territory and India says Islamabad is behind the violence there.

The two countries, both armed with nuclear weapons, came close to war earlier this year over similar attacks by Muslim militants in Delhi and other parts of the country.

India and Pakistan have been to war over Kashmir several times since independence in 1947.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Daniel Lak reports from Delhi
"The attack has thrown the state authorities into confusion"
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