Srinagar, Aug. 24: Suspected militants gunned down a dozen villagers in three separate strikes in the two hilly districts of Rajouri and Doda in Jammu since last night, just a day after the notification for the Assembly polls was issued.
Police said gunmen forced into the dwellings of nomadic tribals in Dhudhassan village, nearly 185 km from Jammu, in Rajouri district late last night and sprayed bullets on the sleeping residents.
“Eight persons died on the spot and the gunmen escaped under the cover of darkness,” said a police official in Jammu.
When news of the massacre reached Rajouri early this morning, senior police officials rushed to the village with additional forces. No group has claimed responsibility.
In Hayatpora village near Manjakote in the same district, gunmen shot dead two more villagers in the early hours of the morning and escaped. Sources said militants who had struck at Dhudhassan could be behind this attack, too.
Militants barged into the house of special police officer Mehboob Ali and his father Kalu Khan in Sawaria Chillu village in Doda last night and shot them. Ali was the personal security officer of a National Conference leader, the sources said.
The escalation in violence follows the notification for polls issued by the Election Commission on August 22. Rajouri goes to polls on September 16 while elections will be held in Doda in the last of the four phases of polling in Jammu and Kashmir.
The Centre is rushing additional troops to the state for deployment during the polls. Paramili tary troops have started arriving in the Kashmir Valley and are being presently deployed in strength in Baramullah and Kupwara districts, where polling is scheduled for September 16.
Filing of nominations has started in the constituencies that go to polls in the first of the four-phase election. Muhammad Abbas of the National Conference filed his nomination papers from Zanskar constituency of Kargil district while Ghulam Rasool Malik will contest from Baramullah as an Independent.
The last date for filing of nomination papers in the 26 Assembly constituencies of Baramullah, Kupwara, Leh, Kargil, Poonch and Rajouri — where polls are scheduled for September 16 — is August 29.