Militants have killed two policemen guarding the home of a pro-India politician in Indian Kashmir in the first such attack in the restive region since national elections got underway, police say.
Two rebels sprayed the home of a National Conference politician with bullets in the town of Khrew, 25km south of the main city of Srinagar.
The attack sparked a gunbattle that also left both militants dead, police said.
Yawar Masoodi, a youth leader of the National Conference party which rules at state level in Kashmir, was home at the time but was unharmed.
“The two policemen died before reaching hospital,” a police officer at the scene told AFP.
The militants fled into nearby mustard fields after snatching the police officers’ weapons. Government forces on patrol in the area chased the attackers, sparking the gunbattle as reinforcements from a nearby army camp also moved in, the officer said on condition of anonymity.
“Both the attackers were later neutralised and the snatched weapons also recovered,” Inspector General Nalin Prabhat from the federal Central Reserve Police Force told AFP.
It is unclear why Masoodi, who is not an elected member of parliament nor standing at the polls, was singled out for attack. But pro-India politicians have been targeted in the past by rebels fighting for independence or for merger of the disputed Himalayan territory with Pakistan.
The district in the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley where the attack took place will go to the polls on April 24 as part of India’s mammoth elections that are staggered nationally over six weeks.
The Hindu nationalist opposition, led by hardliner Narendra Modi, is expected to sweep to power when results are announced on May 16, ending the Congress party’s decade-long national rule.
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since independence from Britain in 1947 but each claim the territory in full.
About a dozen rebel groups have sporadically been battling Indian forces since 1989. The fighting has left tens of thousands, mostly civilians dead.