Militant attack on minister's convoy kills two bystanders in India's Kashmir

SRINAGAR, India (Reuters) - Militants attacked the convoy of a minister in the restive Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday, killing at least two bystanders and injuring several others though the minister escaped unhurt, police said.

A grenade hurled at the motorcade of Jammu and Kashmir Public Works Minister Naeem Akhtar exploded on the road after hitting a security vehicle, senior state police official Manoj Pandita told Reuters.

Akhtar, who was on his way to inaugurate a project in the town of Tral in south Kashmir, told Reuters he was safe.

The incident occurred despite tightened security in the town, which was home to former militant leader Burhan Wani whose death last year at the hands of Indian forces sparked massive protests that led to dozens more deaths.

India has been fighting a long-running counter-insurgency campaign in Muslim-majority Kashmir, which both India and Pakistan claim in full but rule in part. New Delhi accuses Pakistan of pushing in militants from its part of Kashmir to carry out attacks, a charge denied by Islamabad.

So far this year, around 44 civilians have been killed in militant attacks in the state, passing the highest annual total seen in the last eight years, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal.

Reporting by Fayaz Bukhari; Writing by Krishna N. Das