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Four Indian soldiers killed in Kashmir fighting

SRINAGAR, India (AFP) Four soldiers have been killed in Indian-administered Kashmir during ongoing clashes with suspected rebels in the disputed Himalayan territory, security officials said Thursday.

The army said an “intense firefight” broke out Wednesday after troops pursued militants into the dense forests of Kalakote in southern Kashmir.

“The terrorists have been injured and surrounded”, the Indian army’s White Knight Corps said late Wednesday, reporting “acts of valour and sacrifice” by comrades with clashes ongoing. It did not give details of casualties.

But an army officer and a police official, both speaking on condition of anonymity as operations were ongoing, told AFP on Thursday that four soldiers had been killed, including two elite commandos.

Indian army officers look at arms and ammunition recovered from suspected militants, displayed at an army base in Kulgam, south of Srinagar, Indian-controlled Kashmir, Friday, Nov. 17, 2023. PHOTO: AP

The army did not give details of how many militant fighters were involved.

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since their independence in 1947, with both claiming the high-altitude territory in full.

Rebel groups have waged an insurgency in Indian-controlled Kashmir since 1989, demanding independence or a merger with Pakistan. The conflict has left tens of thousands of civilians, soldiers and militants dead.

India blames Pakistan for backing the militants, a charge Islamabad denies saying it only supports a Kashmiri struggle for the right to self-determination.

Last week Indian soldiers killed eight rebels in the Kashmir valley, the epicentre of insurgency.

The Indian-controlled part of the territory has simmered in anger since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government annulled its limited constitutional autonomy in 2019 and imposed direct rule.

Indian authorities say at least 118 people have been killed in the conflict this year, including 11 civilians, 27 security forces and 80 suspected rebels.