Two Indian army officers were also killed in the encounter which occurred in the Gurez region of northwestern Baram Allah. Fighting was still going on while reports came in on Monday.

Indian officials in Kashmir’s summer capital, Srinagar, said that the slain fighters were part of a large group of what the Indian military calls “terrorists”, that crossed from Pakistani-ruled Kashmir into the Indian-controlled part overnight.

“They were spotted by our boys who challenged them, “ said a defence ministry spokesperson. He added, “The infiltrators refused to surrender and instead opened fire on our troops.”

In the ensuring gunbattle two Indian army officials, Lieutenant K D Singh and JCO Joginder Singh were killed.

“The terrorists fired automatic assault rifles and hurled hand grenades to target the Indian soldiers. It was effectively returned and in the retaliatory fire as many fifteen of them were killed,” said spokesperson Colonel Mukhtar Singh.

Toll to rise

"As per (radio) intercepts, the toll is much higher. The exchange of fire between the two sides, which started last night, is still on," the officer said.

Police sources in Srinagar added that 11 AK assault rifles, three UBGLs, 12 hand grenades and two wireless sets were found on the slain fighters. 

Singh said that the mountainous Gurez had been under artillery fire from Pakistan-administered Kashmir for the past two weeks.

Islamabad says it only extends political, diplomatic and moral support to the Kashmiri “freedom struggle”

Islamabad had earlier accused India of resorting to what it called unprovoked shelling on civilian targets on the Pakistani side of the de facto border in recent weeks, leaving several people dead and wounded.

Pakistan has yet to react to a report that appeared in Indian newspapers on Monday citing Indian intelligence reports that about 1600 alleged “terrorists” were getting ready to infiltrate into Indian territory across the Line of Control.

Nuclear rivals

The report said that these fighters were believed to include 20 "suicide squads". Islamic fighters said this month in Pakistan that they would wage "suicide attacks" on top Indian leaders unless “India stops unleashing terror on Muslims in Kashmir and acknowledges their right to self-determination.”

India accuses Pakistan of arming and funding Islamic fighters in Kashmir, which is disputed by the two nuclear rivals.

Islamabad denies the charge saying it only extends political, diplomatic and moral support to the Kashmiri “freedom struggle.”

In the 14-year-old conflict more than 38,000 people have died, according to official statistics. But the local separatist political and human rights groups put the toll between 80,000 and 100,000.