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 Friday, 20 December, 2002, 12:39 GMT
Kashmir violence leaves four dead
Kashmir chief minister Mufti  Mohammad Sayeed
The new government is seen as being soft on militants
Police in Indian-administered Kashmir say a member of the state assembly has been killed near the southern town of Pampore.

Abdul Aziz Mir is the first member of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to be killed since the new government took office last month.

The killing came as police reported the death of three Muslim women in a violent attack by suspected militants in Jammu's Rajouri district.

Mr Mir was on his way home after Friday prayers in a mosque in his native village, Kornibal, when an assailant - suspected to be a militant - fired at him from close range.

He was taken to hospital, where the doctors declared him dead.

A relatively lesser known militant group - the Save Kashmir Movement - says it is behind the killing.

Kashmir's new chief minister, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, has adopted a more conciliatory approach towards the insurgency against Indian rule in Kashmir.

Plans to release political prisoners and provide financial assistance to the families of militants killed in clashes with the Indian security forces have drawn criticism from Hindu nationalist groups.

Women killed

In a separate incident, the police said three militants went to Batiya village in Rajouri after midnight and dragged three women out of their houses after identifying them.

There is a possibility these killings are linked with the diktat on dress code. We have sent a police party

Kashmir police official

They said the militants then slit the throats of two women, while a third one was shot dead.

Reports said that the killings took place just days after posters appeared in the area ordering women to wear a veil.

However, no group has claimed responsibility for the incident so far.

Women in Kashmir
An earlier dress code for women was largely ignored
One of the victims was a married woman while the other two were students in their early 20s.

"There is a possibility these killings are linked with the diktat on dress code. We have sent a police party," a police official told the Reuters news agency.

Posters signed by a little known group, Lashkar Jabbar, appeared in Rajouri town and neighbouring villages asking women not to step out of their homes without a veil, the official said.

Last year, the group issued a religious dress code for Kashmiri women, threatening to shoot women if they failed to wear head-to-toe veils.

The group was also accused of carrying out an acid attack on two women in Kashmir's summer capital Srinagar for defying its Islamic dress code.

A few militant groups in the past have ordered women in the Kashmir Valley to wear a veil, but the order was largely ignored.

Meanwhile, a strike was observed in the Kashmir Valley for a second day running to protest against the death sentences on three men for helping in an attack on the Indian parliament in December last year.

The three men - Mohammad Afzal, Shaukat Hussain and SAR Geelani are due to appeal against the conviction in a higher court.

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See also:

18 Dec 02 | South Asia
14 Dec 02 | South Asia
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10 Oct 02 | South Asia
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