Five Dead in Indian Kashmir Gun Battle


Four suspected rebels and a soldier were killed early Thursday in Indian Kashmir in a gun battle near the de facto border with Pakistan, the second incident in 24 hours, a police officer said.

Police sealed off a forested area in northern Handwara overnight on suspicion militants were moving towards a village, triggering a 10-hour gun battle between government forces and rebels.

"The militants were engaged near a stream in the forested area. All four of them were killed and we also lost a soldier in the firefight," deputy inspector general of police for the area, Gharib Das, told Agence France Presse, adding that two soldiers were injured.

So-called encounters between troops and militants have increased recently in the troubled region, with four suspected rebels killed and another captured during a day-long battle last week.

On Wednesday, government forces killed a militant from the Hizbul Mujahideen group in a battle in Rafiabad area that also left one soldier dead.

Several rebel groups have for decades battled hundreds of thousands of Indian troops deployed in the region, seeking independence for Kashmir or its merger with Pakistan.

The conflict has left tens of thousands, mostly civilians, dead.

Indian and Pakistani national security advisers called off talks last month aimed at improving tense relations, in part over a push to put Kashmir on the agenda.   

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan but claimed in its entirety by both since the end of British colonial rule in 1947.

India often accuses Pakistan of arming and training rebels who infiltrate the Indian-controlled portion of the territory. Islamabad says it only provides moral and diplomatic support for the Kashmiri people.

The countries' border security chiefs are preparing to meet in New Delhi this month amid an increase in firing by their troops across the Line of Control.

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