Suspected militants shot and killed three politicians from India’s ruling party in Kashmir late on Thursday, police said.
The attackers fired at a car the three were using in the southern Kashmir Valley. They were rushed to hospital, where they died of their wounds.
Government forces immediately launched a search for the shooters, police said without revealing other details.
The three victims were members of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) youth wing. The BJP condemned the killings in a tweet, calling them a “barbaric terror attack”. A spokesman declared, “Those who are responsible for this will not be spared.”
The Associated Press reports that no rebel group has yet claimed responsibility for the murders but police described the incident as a “terror crime”.
Altaf Thakur, a local BJP spokesman, said the party has lost nine members in militant attacks so far this year.
Rebel groups have intensified attacks on BJP followers since the government revoked Kashmir’s semi-autonomy in August 2019, backed up by a stringent security clampdown in which the internet was cut for several months.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, and both countries claim the whole region. Most Muslim Kashmiris want the territory to be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.
The shootings came two days after India brought in laws allowing any of its citizens to buy land in Kashmir. Opponents see this as a way of changing the demographics of the Muslim-majority region.
India describes the Kashmiri militancy as Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. Pakistan denies the charge.
Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces have been killed in the conflict.