Five die in blast in Kashmir ahead of polls | india | Hindustan Times
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Five die in blast in Kashmir ahead of polls

india Updated: Apr 22, 2009 16:51 IST

AFP
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A bomb blast in Indian Kashmir killed five people and injured seven, as the troubled Muslim-majority region braced for the second stage of general elections, police said on Wednesday.

The attack occurred in southern Poonch district on Tuesday evening near a pick-up truck carrying civilians and village defence committee (VDC) members, a police spokesman said.

"Five people, including three VDC members, were killed in the explosion and seven others were seriously hurt," a police spokesman said.

The committees were set up in the mid-1990s by the government to protect remote and inaccessible villages from attacks by Muslim militants.

The committee members, who are armed and funded by the government, have in the past been killed in rebel gun and grenade attacks.

Violence linked to the long-running Muslim insurgency against Indian rule in Kashmir has increased in the past month, with the disputed region participating in a general election boycotted by most separatist leaders.

Voting in Indian Kashmir has been staggered over five phases in order to provide adequate security.

The sensitive Udhampur segment goes to the polls Thursday in the second of the five phases. The first voting session passed off peacefully last week.

In a separate incident Wednesday, two policemen were wounded in a gunbattle with militants in the southern district of Doda where voting will be held on Thursday.

Hardline separatist politicians in Kashmir have called for a boycott of the polls, arguing that participation amounts to recognition of India's sovereignty over the region.

The call has been backed by a stark warning from the most powerful militant group active in Indian Kashmir, Hizbul Mujahedin.

Anyone taking part "will be considered traitors who are selling out the blood of martyrs," Syed Salahudin, the outfit's Pakistan-based supreme commander, said earlier this week.

State elections late last year witnessed an unprecedented 60 percent voter turnout --- a figure the government in New Delhi was swift to hail as a "victory for democracy" and a vote for national integration.