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Central & South Asia

Indian troops battle Kashmir 'infiltrators'

At least six wounded as army fights what it calls the largest group of infiltrators to cross from Pakistan in years.

Last Modified: 03 Oct 2013 09:33
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The battle has been raging for the past nine days in thick forests in Keran sector [Reuters]

At least six Indian soldiers have been injured in an ongoing gun battle in Kashmir with the biggest group of infiltrators to cross from Pakistan in years, a top general of the Indian army has said.

About 30 to 40 heavily-armed fighters crossed the Line of Control dividing Kashmir between the rival nations in the Keran sector and are holed up for the past nine days in thick forests in the area, Lieutenant General Gurmit Singh told a news conference late on Wednesday.

India says rebel incursions have been rising in Kashmir over the past year, feeding an armed revolt there, but these groups were usually made up of five or six people.

"Today is the ninth day of the operation. This infiltration was attempted by strength of I would put it as about 30 to 40 militants," said Singh, who leads the Indian army's 15 Corps that is responsible for operations in the Kashmir Valley.

The army has killed 10 to 12 of them, he said.

'Special forces'

On Tuesday night, another group of 10 men had tried to cross over to join the fighters holed up about 200 to 300 metres on India's side of Kashmir.

"I would also like to tell you that from the operation, which has been going on till now and the strength and multiple points at which they attempted and the intentions which they had indicate that definitely they were some special troops. They were very well trained and this is quite different from the trends that we had earlier seen in the infiltration attempts," added Singh.

There was no immediate comment from Pakistan. Islamabad denies it is helping fighters cross the largely fenced border with India and has urged India to hold talks to tackle the decades old dispute over the region.

The latest fighting was taking place as the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif pledged in New York last weekend to work towards strengthening a 10-year-old ceasefire that has frayed in recent months.

But they failed to announce any concrete measures to advance peace talks that have been slow to recover since 2008 when Pakistan-based fighters attacked India's financial centre Mumbai for three days and killed 166 people.

Cross-border raids

Singh denied Indian media reports that the fighters had taken over a village in the Keran sector and said the military was fully in control of the situation.

The Kashmir region has witnessed numerous attacks and infiltration attempts from across the border in the last two decades.

The Himalayan region is one of the world's most militarised zones, with India deploying more than 1.3 million troops to quell the rebellion that triggered off in 1989.

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