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Friday, 20 September, 2002, 16:45 GMT 17:45 UK
Kashmir political activist shot dead
Polling station in Indian administered Kashmir
Violence has risen since elections were announced
Unidentified gunmen have killed a ruling party activist in Indian-administered Kashmir in continued poll-related violence.

Azad Ahmed Khan was shot dead while walking on a street in the summer capital, Srinagar, late on Thursday.

Another ruling party supporter was killed in a separate incident on Friday, bringing to nine the number killed in a 24-hour period.

Srinagar goes to the polls on Tuesday in the second phase of state assembly elections in Indian-administered Kashmir.

The main Kashmiri separatist alliance has called for a boycott of the elections and militants have threatened violence against those taking part.

On Thursday suspected militants opened fire at a school in a remote village north of Jammu, killing a teacher and a teenage student.

Election Dates

Phase 1: 16 Sept
Phase 2: 24 Sept
Phase 3: 1 Oct
Phase 4: 8 Oct
Results due: 12 Oct

The attack took place even as the American ambassador in Delhi said incursions by Islamic rebels into Indian Kashmir had risen since elections were announced there.

Ambassador Robert Blackwill said his government expected Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to meet his commitment to end cross-border infiltration permanently.

General Musharraf maintains his country is doing all it can to stop the militants.

He told a security conference in Islamabad on Thursday that his government was neither allowing, nor sponsoring militant incursions from Pakistani territory.

"If India with a larger force deployed cannot seal the Line of Control, it should not expect this from Pakistan," he said.

Gandhi rally

India's opposition leader, Sonia Gandhi, is in Kashmir to lead her party's campaign.

Sonia Gandhi
Sonia Gandhi has called for unconditional talks
In a rally in Srinagar on Thursday she called for unconditional talks with the people of all the three regions of Indian-administered Kashmir.

These should include "those with doubts in their minds" - a reference, correspondents say, to the separatists.

On Friday, Mrs Gandhi asked voters in Jammu to throw out the "corrupt and incompetent" National Conference government.

An earlier Congress rally was cancelled after suspected Islamic militants assassinated a Kashmiri minister while he was campaigning.

But the first of four days of voting, which took place on Monday, were largely peaceful with a voter turnout of 47%, according to India's Election Commission.

The separatist All Parties Hurriyat Conference said in a statement that India had inflated the figures.

The Indian government has denied this.

Voting will take place in both Srinagar and Jammu in the next round, which takes place on 24 September.

Almost 1.5 million people were eligible to cast their votes in the first phase of elections.

The rest of Indian-administered Kashmir heads to the polls in three more rounds, the last being held on 8 October.

The BBC's Jill McGivering
"Violence is a way of life here"
The BBC's Altaf Hussein
"More than 25 political activists have been killed"
Click here fror background reports and analysis

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See also:

19 Sep 02 | South Asia
15 Sep 02 | South Asia
14 Sep 02 | South Asia
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