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Two-day gunbattle leaves eight dead in Indian Kashmir

Srinagar: Eight people four soldiers and policemen and four suspected rebels — have been killed in a continuing fierce gunbattle in Indian-administered Kashmir, officials said Wednesday.

The clash began Tuesday when an army patrol was attacked by unknown gunmen in the northern forests of Halmatpura, near the de facto border known as the Line of Control that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan, said Indian army spokesman Colonel Rajesh Kalia.

Three bodies of suspected insurgents were retrieved from the area on Tuesday and another on Wednesday as the exchange of fire continued into a second day, police said.

On Wednesday two soldiers and two members of the police special forces were killed as more troops were rushed in to search the forest, a senior police officer told AFP on condition of anonymity.

“At least one more militant is still fighting,” the officer said. Kalla confirmed that firing was still going on in the area.

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule in 1947. Both claim the restive Himalayan territory in full and have fought two of their three wars over it.

Rebel groups have fought for decades, seeking independence or a merger of the entire disputed territory with Pakistan.

Many in the Muslim-majority territory support the rebel cause and often come out onto the streets armed with stones.

Armed encounters between rebels and government forces are also frequent. The army killed more than 200 suspected rebels last year during a counter-insurgency offensive dubbed “Operation All Out”.

India accuses Pakistan of arming and training rebels and pushing them across the Line of Control to attack its forces. Islamabad says it only provides moral and diplomatic support to the Kashmiri struggle for self-determination.


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