Suicide attack on Indian army camp in Kashmir kills 5

SRINAGAR, India - Five members of the Indian security forces were killed in a suicide attack on an army artillery camp in northern Kashmir early on Friday as militants step up violence in the disputed region near the border with Pakistan, officials said.

The latest attack took place in Kashmir's Uri sector near the militarised border. Kashmiris are voting for a new state assembly in large numbers, officials said, and the attack came just days before voting in the staggered election is due to be held in that sector.

Abdul Ghani Mir, a state police officer, said five police and soldiers were killed. Three attackers were also killed, he said, but it was not yet known if more were involved.

"We have cordoned off the area, the national highway near Uri has been closed," Mir said.

Soldiers killed six militants earlier this week in nearby Kupwara as they crossed over from Pakistan, which the army said was part of a push by militants to disrupt the vote.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's nationalist party is making its most serious bid yet to win power in the troubled state, banking on votes in the Hindu-majority Jammu and Buddhist Ladakh areas. It is also capitalising on the rise of independents and splits elsewhere in Muslim-majority Kashmir.

Separatists have called for a boycott of the election and militants have stepped up attacks after a lull of months.

However, more than 70 per cent of voters turned out to cast their ballot in the first phase of the election, weary of strife and lack of development in the Himalayan region that is at the heart of 67 years of hostility between India and Pakistan.

"Kashmiris have come out to vote in such large numbers because they want to recapture control of their lives," political commentator Prem Shankar Jha wrote in the Hindustan Times.