NEW DELHI, India - Militants in the Indian state of Kashmir killed a state government minister who was campaigning for re-election yesterday, signaling an escalation of violence as elections approach. The killing, the second of a candidate in less than a week, was followed by an attack on a bus stop in which at least seven people were killed.
The killings came five days before the start of state assembly elections, which are seen as crucial to progress in the Indian-Pakistan peace effort.
Both countries claim Kashmir, which is divided between them, and Pakistan-backed militants have waged a 12-year insurgency in Indian Kashmir. India has threatened war if Pakistan does not control the infiltration of militants across the border into India.
A Pakistan-based group, Lashkar-e-Toyyaba, and two little known militant groups claimed responsibility for the killing yesterday of Mushtaq Ahmed Lone, Kashmir's junior minister for law and parliamentary affairs. Three of his bodyguards were also killed. Lone's killing took place in a border village about 55 miles north of the summer capital of Srinagar.
Militants have vowed to disrupt the elections by killing anyone who participates. Voting begins Monday and will be held in four phases through Oct. 8.
The militants appear to be having ever greater success. There have been at least four attempts on candidates' lives in the past week. Forty political workers have been killed in the past few weeks.