SRINAGAR, India – Kashmir's tourism minister survived a second assassination attempt and at least 14 people were killed Saturday in a surge of violence ahead of elections in the disputed Himalayan state, police said.
Sakina Yatoo, the tourism minister and a ruling-party candidate in state legislative elections, was on her way to a campaign stop in a village 40 miles south of the state's summer capital, Srinagar, when her motorcade was hit by a remote-controlled bomb.
Gunmen then surrounded her car and opened fire, killing two of her bodyguards and a local resident, but Yatoo survived unhurt, apparently because the car was armored, said a police spokesman on condition of anonymity. She was heading to Kulgam village.
It was the second attack on Yatoo in less than a week, and came amid a spate of violence authorities blamed on Islamic separatists who have vowed to disrupt legislative elections in India's only majority Muslim state. She also survived a Sept. 15 attack on her motorcade.
Kashmiris go to the polls Tuesday for the second of four rounds of voting staggered over four days in September and October. India sees the elections as a chance to defuse a separatist insurgency in Kashmir, but the militants call voting a sham. Nearly 100 political figures -- including a state minister -- have been killed in the campaign.
Police did not name any suspects in Saturday's attack on Yatoo, but hours later a worker with Yatoo's governing National Conference party was killed in his home outside Srinagar, and police blamed the killing on the rebels.
The party, which is allied with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's Hindu-nationalist party, is expected to return to power easily in the elections.
In a separate attack Saturday in Kulgam, unidentified assailants gunned down a truck driver and his assistant.
In Badijalan, a village near Kulgam, four suspected guerrillas of an outlawed Islamic militant group, Harkat-ul Jehad-e-Islami, were killed in a gunbattle with the Indian army, a Defense Ministry official in Srinagar said on condition of anonymity. Details were not immediately available.
Elsewhere in Kashmir, two suspected Islamic militants burst into an apartment complex for police families in a northern suburb of Srinagar and exchanged gunfire with security forces, police said. One police officer was killed and at least five wounded.
In Neelu, about 45 miles south of Srinagar, three unidentified gunmen forced suspected Communist Party activists out of a house and shot them at close range, killing two and seriously wounding the third, said local police official Ghulam Mohi-ud-din. He did not name any suspects.
In Palpora, 25 miles northeast of Srinagar, suspected militants shot and killed a teacher, police said.
India accuses Pakistan of training and arming Islamic insurgents who slip across the border into Indian-controlled Kashmir from the Pakistan to attack Indian government targets.
Islamabad denies the charge, saying it provides them only moral and diplomatic support. Both India and Pakistan claim divided Kashmir in its entirety. The 12-year insurgency has claimed some 60,000 lives.