SRINAGAR, India – Suspected Islamic militants blew up a vehicle carrying a legislative candidate in India's Jammu-Kashmir state Saturday, killing three of her supporters and one policeman, an official said.
The attack came as nearly 1,000 people blocked traffic, threw stones and shouted anti-Indian slogans after security forces allegedly killed a Muslim teen-ager in the state's summer capital, Srinagar. At least eight suspected rebels and one soldier were also killed in violence elsewhere in the province, police said.
The explosion hit the election convoy of Khaleda Mustafa, a member of the opposition Nationalist Congress Party, as she campaigned in the Anantnag district, 45 miles south of Srinagar.
Mustafa was seriously wounded, while three of her supporters and a policeman were killed, a police officer said on condition of anonymity. A passer-by was also wounded.
Anantnag is one of the four districts that go to the polls in the third round of voting scheduled for Jammu-Kashmir on Oct. 1. The elections, which began this month, will end Oct. 8.
Pakistan-based Islamic rebels fighting Indian rule in Kashmir have threatened to kill candidates and voters in the elections. They say the elections are rigged in favor of the ruling pro-India National Conference party.
India hopes that strong voter turnout will solidify its rule in the disputed region, which is split between India and Pakistan.
In Srinagar, the protests came after an Indian security vehicle allegedly struck and killed Muzzamil Ahmad, a 19-year-old Muslim.
Police fired shots in the air to disperse the protesters, a police spokesman said on condition of anonymity.
Security forces also clashed with separatists in the village of Sonarkalipora, 15 miles southwest of Srinagar. Two suspected rebels and one paramilitary soldier were killed, police said.
Three rebels, including a district commander of the Jamait-ul-Mujahedeen rebel group, were also killed in fighting overnight in the Gulgam Forest close to the India-Pakistan border, about 75 miles north of Srinagar, a paramilitary officer said on condition of anonymity.
Three more suspected guerrillas were killed in two separate clashes in the Kashmir Valley, the officer said. There was no independent confirmation of the police claims.
India accuses Pakistan of training and arming the rebels and helping them to cross over to Indian-held Kashmir to attack government targets. Pakistan says it gives only moral support to the militants.
Turnout was unexpectedly high in the first round of voting in Kashmir on Sept. 16. The federal election commission said 47.2 percent of 1.4 million registered voters cast ballots.
In the second round last week, only 11 percent of voters cast ballots in Srinagar and 51 percent turned out in Badgam in the Kashmir Valley. In Jammu, where most of Kashmir's minority Hindu population lives, 59 percent of registered voters participated.
India and Pakistan have twice gone to war over Kashmir, which is claimed by both countries. The insurgents, fighting for Kashmir's independence from India or its merger with Pakistan, have killed two candidates and more than 160 political workers since elections were announced in Indian-held Kashmir in August.
The 12-year insurgency by separatist groups has left more than 60,000 people dead.