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Assailants kill Indian ruling party politician in Kashmir

SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Unidentified assailants fatally shot a politician of India’s ruling political party in disputed Kashmir, police said Thursday.

Police blamed the killing on rebels who have been fighting against Indian rule for decades in the part of Kashmir that India administers. Suspected militants carried out a string of deadly attacks last year on Bharatiya Janata Party members in Kashmir.

The assailants fired at Rakesh Pandita late Wednesday in the southern town of Tral where he was visiting a friend, police said. He was declared dead in a hospital.

Pandita had a secured accommodation in the region’s main city of Srinagar and was protected by two police guards but he went to Tral without his guards, a police statement said.

Manoj Sinha, New Delhi’s top administrator in Kashmir, and BJP leaders condemned the killing. “Terrorists will never succeed in their nefarious designs, and those responsible for such heinous acts shall be brought to justice,” Sinha said in a tweet.

No rebel group claimed responsibility for the attack.

Last year, a top BJP politician along with his father and brother, who were also BJP members, were killed.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and both claim the region in its entirety. Rebels have been fighting against Indian rule since 1989. Most Muslim Kashmiris support the rebel goal that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.

New Delhi calls Kashmir militancy as Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. Pakistan denies the charge, and most Kashmiris call it a legitimate freedom struggle.

Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces have been killed in the conflict.

The Associated Press