July 8, 2006

Kashmir woman leader survives attack, 5 killed

By Sheikh Mushtaq

SRINAGAR, India (Reuters) - A woman politician in Indian
Kashmir survived a sixth attempt on her life on Saturday when
suspected militants threw a grenade, but five of her supporters
were killed and 45 wounded in the attack, police said.

Sakina Itoo, 36, lawmaker and a leader of the National
Conference party, was coming out of a shrine along with dozens
of her supporters when the militants struck, a police spokesman

"Itoo received splinter injuries but she is out of danger"
the spokesman said, adding that a prominent former state
lawmaker, Ghulam Nabi Dar, and four others were killed in the

No militant group has claimed responsibility for the attack
which took place in Kulgam, 65 km (40 miles) south of Srinagar,
summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir state.

Five children and six policemen were among the wounded in
the explosion. Hundreds of people, many of them wailing, rushed
to hospitals looking for their relatives.

"The explosion was deafening, I saw people falling on each
other ... bleeding and screaming for help," Mohammad Shafi, who
witnessed the attack, told Reuters.

Itoo, a former tourism minister, has survived five previous
attempts on her life since an Islamic insurgency broke out in
the region in 1989. More than 45,000 people have been killed
since then.

Her father, a former speaker of the state legislature and
senior leader of the National Conference party, was killed by
militants in 1995.

Violence has increased in the state in recent months as
summer melts snow in the region's mountain passes, allowing
easier movement of militants. Kashmir is part-ruled by nuclear
rivals India and Pakistan, but claimed in full by both.

Ghulam Nabi Azad, chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, said
on Thursday rebel incursion from Pakistani Kashmir to Indian
side has increased despite a peace process between the South
Asian rivals.

But Pakistan says it has taken steps to curb militants.