The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Hizb ‘lesson’ threat for polls

Srinagar, Oct. 6: Before the curtain comes down on the four-phase elections in Jammu and Kashmir, the frontline militant outfit Hizb-ul Mujahideen issued a chilling warning that comes on top of a bloodbath in the third round last Tuesday.

“We will not pardon all those who participated in the elections. We will teach them a lesson,” the organisation said, two days ahead of the fourth phase of polls on Tuesday.

Six constituencies go to polls in Jammu’s most sensitive district Doda, where the heavily-forested hilly terrain has proved to be a favoured surrounding of militants, and one — Lolab — in the north Kashmir district of Kupwara.

Lolab was to have voted on September 16, but polling was postponed because of the assassination of National Conference candidate and law minister Mushtaq Ahmad Lone.

Qaiser Ahmed Lone, a close relative of the slain minister, is now contesting on the same party’s ticket.

“We have made adequate security arrangements in the constituency,” said Haq Nawaz, the district magistrate of Kupwara.

On the last day of campaigning for the polls today, suspected militants ambushed an army vehicle in Rajouri, killing two soldiers and wounding three.

In Doda, suspected militants threw a grenade at a bus stop and gunmen fired at a motorcade of an independent candidate. However, no one was hurt in either incident.

A senior police officer in Doda said security forces have taken up positions to “instil confidence among the voters in the six constituencies”.

“We have deployed nearly 500 companies of paramilitary troops. We want to ensure maximum participation in the poll process,” the police officer said.

“We have areas where there is militant presence but security forces are deployed in good strength to maintain law and order,” he added.

In the third phase of polling, 18 people were killed when militants launched a string of grenade, landmine and gun attacks after the first two rounds were held in relative peace.

On condition of anonymity, the officer said all the 534 polling booths in the six constituencies in Doda run the risk of violence.

“We have 243 hypersensitive polling stations and 291 sensitive polling booths in the district,” he said.

The ruling National Conference has fielded candidates in all the six constituencies where it will face a tough fight from the Congress and the People’s Democratic Party nominees.

Counting is scheduled to begin on Thursday for all four rounds.

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