Militants kill 30 on bloodiest day of Kashmir polls

Separatist militants pressed forward with their latest offensive in Indian-controlled Kashmir, bringing the death toll to almost 30 within a 24-hour period.

Separatist militants pressed forward with their latest offensive in Indian-controlled Kashmir, bringing the death toll to almost 30 within a 24-hour period.

Eleven people were killed yesterday, adding to the 18 who died on Tuesday in a wave of bombings and shootings that marked the third round of polling. It was the bloodiest day since the four-stage elections began last month.

Five border guards were killed in a land-mine explosion 28 miles south of Srinagar, the summer capital of the Indian-controlled part of the divided province. In the frontier district of Kupwara, three party workers were killed, becoming another statistic on a list of an estimated 600 deaths that followed the announcement of the election in early August. And there was another bomb attack on a bus, killing two civilians – coming only a day after eight were killed by men armed with Kalashnikovs and grenades.

A policemen was also killed yesterday in a landmine explosion in the southern Doda district, which goes to the polls in the final round on Tuesday.

India blames Pakistan for sponsoring the militant groups that are responsible for the attacks in Kashmir, which has a Muslim majority.

Yesterday the Indian Deputy Prime Minister, L K Advani, who has a reputation as a hardline Hindu nationalist, spelt out his government's ire over the latest bloodshed, by accusing Islamabad of being influenced by Islamic "religious extremism" of its own making. Addressing an anti-terrorism conference organised by his Hindu nationalist BJP party, he said: "Whosoever created the Frankenstein is bound to be affected by the monster."

India has been pressing the United States – whose envoy Christina Rocca met the Pakistani President, General Pervez Musharraf, on Tuesday – to put pressure on Pakistan to rein in the militants. But Mr Advani indicated that India's position was clear. "We do not have to wait for any other country to declare Pakistan a terrorist state. We are already waging a war," he said.

India insists that the elections in Jammu and Kashmir – which it seeks to portray as an endorsement of its rule – are proving a success, citing a turn-out of more than 40 per cent. Pakistan dismisses the figures as bogus, a view echoed in Islamabad yesterday by Kashmir's main separatist groups, which are calling for a plebiscite on whether to stay with India, join Pakistan or seek total independence.

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