Suspected Islamic militants killed the education minister of Indian-controlled Kashmir on Tuesday during a brazen raid days after top insurgents ordered a suspension of attacks in the aftermath of South Asia's devastating earthquake.
Ghulam Nabi Lone, 62, was the third senior Indian official killed by insurgents since 2000, and each of the previous slayings led to major military clampdowns in Kashmir and ratcheted up tension between India and rival Pakistan, both of which claim all the Himalayan territory.
India and Pakistan fought two wars over Kashmir, but two years ago embarked on a peace process that has lowered tensions in the heavily militarized region.
Hours after the killing, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called the slaying "dastardly" and said in a statement that "efforts to hamper the earthquake relief work and disturb peace in the state will be thwarted."
In Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, a Foreign Ministry statement condemned Lone's killing, saying the country is "against terrorism in all its forms and manifestations."
The attack began when two militants hurled a grenade at paramilitary soldiers guarding a residential compound in central Srinagar where lawmakers and ministers lived.
The militants then entered the complex, killing one paramilitary soldier and injuring four others, before barging into the home of a lawmaker and firing indiscriminately, said police Supt. Munir Khan. The lawmaker, Yusuf Tarigami, escaped unhurt but a security guard was killed.
The militants then scaled a wall to enter Lone's house next door and resumed firing, hitting Lone and injuring at least four other people at the minister's house, Khan said, adding that the education minister died on the way to a hospital.
One of the attackers was killed by soldiers at Lone's house, and a standoff with the surviving rebel lasted nearly three hours before he escaped, said S. S. Sandhu, inspector general of the Central Reserve Police Force, which guards the residential enclave.
Amid the standoff, the Al-Mansoorian militant group claimed the responsibility for the attack in the Tulsi Bagh area of Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian's part of Kashmir, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.
However, another militant group, Islamic Front, also claimed responsibility for the attack in a call to Current News Service, a news agency based in Srinagar. The caller did not identify himself, the agency reported.
On photo: Ghulam Nabi Lone, education minister of Kashmir.
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