SRINAGAR, Oct 2: Five Indian soldiers and 10 others were killed in occupied Kashmir on Wednesday as controversial elections in the held state headed towards a climax.

The five troops were killed and one was injured when their vehicle hit a landmine, while at least two people were killed and 24 injured in a bus-bombing near occupied Jammu.

Gunmen shot dead three activists from the ruling National Conference (NC) party in the village of Jaktial, Kupwara district, early in the morning, police said.

Wednesday’s attacks follow a particularly violent third round of voting in elections for the assembly in Srinagar the previous day, which saw at least 27 attacks launched on polling stations, police vehicles as well as a bus carrying pilgrims.

The death toll from Tuesday’s assaults was 21, including six Indian soldiers.

Since the dates of the staggered election were announced on Aug 2, at least 636 people have been killed in the held state. Forty of the dead were activists from parties contesting the polls, including two candidates.

The bus attacked on Wednesday, on the outskirts of occupied Jammu, was carrying pilgrims to Katra, where thousands of people go to visit the shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi. Police believe the blast was caused by a time-bomb.

“As soon as we reached Manda chowk (on the outskirts of Jammu), there was an explosion in the middle of the bus and the bus caught fire immediately,” said the driver, Prakash Singh.

“The people nearby rushed to rescue those inside, but the bus was in flames.”

Medical sources said many of the injured suffered very severe burns and were in a critical condition in hospital. Between 10 and 12 people had lost limbs.

Soon after the bus was bombed, five Indian Border Security Force (BSF) soldiers were killed and one injured when their vehicle hit a landmine in Tral, 40 kilometres south of Srinagar.

The Hizbul Mujahideen claimed responsibility for the attack.

The chief of police in occupied Kashmir said the Lashkar-i-Taiba or Jaish-i-Mohammad were responsible for the bus attack.

“Either Lashkar-i-Taiba or Jaish-i-Mohammad is behind the blast,” he said.

Police claimed that Indian forces on Wednesday killed four Mujahideen in the town of Jhalian, Poonch district, near the Line of Control.

The militants were carrying a large number of AK rifles and grenades, police said.—AFP

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