Death toll in Kashmir attack rises to 11
9 April 2004
SRINAGAR: The number of people killed in an attack on an election rally in Indian Kashmir rose to 11 after seven died from their injuries overnight, officials said on Friday. Another 68 people were wounded, including two state ministers, in the grenade attack on a rally by Jammu and Kashmir's ruling People's Democratic Party on Thursday ahead of national polls that begin this month. JamiatulMujahideen, a Kashmiri separatist group, claimed responsibility for the attack in the town of Uri, near the border with Pakistan. PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti, one of Kashmir's most popular politicians, escaped unhurt. 'The people who are against peace sabotaged the rally, but they can not break our resolve,' she later told reporters. Prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee called the state's chief minister and Mehbooba's father, Mufti Mohammad Syed, to condemn the bloodshed, officials said, amid fears violence could disrupt campaigning and voting in the disputed Himalayan region. Rebel groups and separatist politicians have urged Kashmiris to boycott the national poll, to be held in five stages between April 20 and May 10. Kashmiris will vote in four of the five phases because of security fears. Staggering the voting allows security forces to be moved around to ensure maximum protection for voters and polling staff in each stage. Despite a slow but steady improvement in ties between Islamabad and New Delhi over the past year, violence continues in India's only Muslim majority state. Elsewhere, four rebels and two civilians died in separate shootouts across the region in the past 24 hours, police said. About a dozen guerrilla groups are fighting for an independent Kashmir or its merger with Pakistan in a revolt that has killed nearly 40,000 people by India's count. Separatists put the total closer to 90,000.