Tight security in Kashmir for India prime minister

AP News
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Posted: Dec 07, 2014 8:19 AM
Tight security in Kashmir for India prime minister

SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Thousands of government forces have fanned out across the Indian portion of Kashmir to provide a security shield for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is scheduled to make a campaign speech in the region for local elections, police said Sunday.

Authorities are taking extra precautions following daring daylong insurgent attacks Friday on an army camp and other targets left 21 people dead, including six attackers, said K. Rajendra, the top police officer in Jammu-Kashmir state.

Sharpshooters have been posted on rooftops in the region's main city, Srinagar, where Modi is scheduled to speak Monday at an election rally in a sports stadium. Security forces also have put steel barricades on the roads and are checking vehicles and frisking commuters and pedestrians.

"Prime ministers are generally high-value targets, so we are not taking a chance," Rajendra said.

Rebel groups in Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule since 1989. More than 68,000 people have been killed in the uprising and an Indian military crackdown that has largely suppressed rebel activity.

On Sunday, Lt. Gen. Subrata Saha, a top Indian army commander, accused the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group of carrying out Friday's attacks. India also blames Lashkar-e-Taiba for a 2008 attack on the Indian city of Mumbai that killed 166 people.

Lashkar-e-Taiba, however, has not issued any statement.

"There is no doubt that they (the attackers) were highly trained terrorists. Attacks like these are not possible without a design, pattern, synchronization and coordination," Saha told reporters in Srinagar.

There has been a flurry of attacks recently in the Indian portion of Kashmir, which is holding elections staggered over five days to elect a regional legislature. Modi has visited the region twice in the last month.

The violence has not deterred voters, with officials saying turnout for the first two phases of the election was about 70 percent.

India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars since 1947 over rival claims to Kashmir. India accuses Pakistan of supporting the militants with arms and trainings, while Islamabad staunchly denies this, saying it offers only morale and diplomatic support for their cause.