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Minister in quake-hit Indian Kashmir murdered
Updated: 2005-10-18 21:43

Indian Kashmir's junior education minister, Ghulam Nabi Lone, was shot and killed in a raid on his home by Muslim militants on Tuesday in the region's main city of Srinagar, police said.

A Kashmiri earthquake survivor walks past a destroyed school building in Kalgai, 120 km (75 miles) west of Srinagar October 18, 2005. The quake killed at least 41,000 in Pakistan and injured 67,000, while in Indian Kashmir a further 1,300 people died. [Reuters]

"He is dead ... a suicide attacker stormed into his official residence," a senior police officer said. Two of the minister's police bodyguards were also killed.

A Pakistan Kashmir-based militant group, the Islamic Front, claimed responsibility in a call to a local news agency.

Tuesday's attack came as authorities in Indian Kashmir struggle to provide relief and shelter to thousands made homeless by the devastating earthquake that hit the Himalayan region on October 8.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed shock over Lone's killing and urged people in the region to remain calm and defeat those spreading violence.

Top interior ministry officials met in New Delhi to review the situation.

V.K. Duggal, the most senior bureaucrat in the federal interior ministry, said the attack would not hinder quake relief work.

"This is coming at a time when the whole country and the government of India are working to rebuild the earthquake-hit areas," he said, but added: "This is an unpardonable act."

Analysts say militants are trying to show they can still strike despite losing many of their own in the earthquake. India also says many rebel camps were destroyed in Pakistani Kashmir.

"They want to convey they are still active and disrupt the ongoing peace process (with Pakistan)," said Amitabh Mattoo, vice-chancellor of the Jammu University.

Police said at least two militants scaled the wall of the 53-year-old minister's house from an adjoining home of a communist deputy in the assembly. One of them shot Lone.

The militants then threw grenades at police guards, killing two policemen and wounding three.

In 2002, Indian Kashmir's junior interior minister, Mushtaq Ahmed Lone, was killed by militants during an election campaign.


Pakistan, which India says abets militants fighting its rule in Kashmir, condemned the latest assassination.

Militant attacks have continued after the earthquake with soldiers and Hindu civilians being killed in separate strikes in Indian Kashmir.

Since the quake, Indian troops have killed at least 16 militants trying to cross the Line of Control into India from Pakistan's portion of Kashmir.

But Kashmiri politicians say they will not allow the violence to derail relief efforts for tens of thousands of quake survivors struggling without shelter as the Himalayan winter approaches.

The chief minister of India's Jammu and Kashmir state, Mufti Mohammad Syed, said the militants had acted with total disregard to earthquake survivors.

"It seems these people don't have feelings for human beings," he told reporters in Srinagar.

More than 45,000 people have been killed in Jammu and Kashmir -- mainly Hindu India's only Muslim-majority state -- in the 16-year-revolt against New Delhi's rule.

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