At least eight soldiers have been killed in an attack by armed fighters in Indian-administered Kashmir, an army spokesman has said.

''Militants ambushed a vehicle carrying army personnel. They opened fire, lobbed a grenade and fled'' Naresh Vij, a Srinagar-based defence spokesman, told the Reuters news agency.

At least six others were injured in the attack on Monday. It came ahead of a two-day visit to the region by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Shops, businesses and schools were closed in Kashmir after separatist groups called for a strike on Tuesday
to protest Sigh's visit.

Security forces were deployed in Srinagar, Kashmir's main city. Police closed off several main roads and soldiers with automatic weapons swarmed a convention centre where the prime minister was due to meet local officials.

Hizbul Mujahideen, an armed pro-Pakistan group, claimed responsibility for the attack and warned of more such attacks.

On Saturday, Hizbul Mujahideen shot dead two policemen in the heart of Srinagar despite heightened security for Singh's  visit beginning on Tuesday.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, both of which claim the region and rule it in part. They have fought two of their three wars over the region.

Armed rebel groups have escalated attacks on security forces since March, killing 27 security men so far.

Source: Agencies