Four Indian army soldiers and three rebels were killed in Kashmir, an Indian defence ministry spokesperson said, in the bloodiest gun battle in the disputed region since April.
An army patrol noticed suspicious movement along the Line of Control (LOC), the de facto border between India and Pakistan, in the early hours of Sunday, Defence Ministry spokesman Colonel Rajesh Kalia said.
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“Army troops were rushed to the area and militant movement was tracked by surveillance devices. A heavy gun battle followed in which three militants were killed,” he said.
Four army soldiers were killed in the gun battle, he said.
This is the highest number of army casualties along the LOC in Kashmir since April.
Five Indian troops and an equal number of rebels were killed in April when armed individuals were confronted by Indian troops in the area.
India accuses Pakistan of arming and training rebels to attack Indian soldiers and other targets in the region, a charge Islamabad denies.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, but the rivals each claim the region in its entirety.
The two countries have fought three wars, two of them over control of Kashmir, since British colonialists granted them independence in 1947.
Rebels have been fighting against Indian rule since 1989. Most Muslim Kashmiris support the rebel goal that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.
Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces have been killed in the conflict.
Tensions in the disputed Himalayan region have escalated since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government scrapped Kashmir’s special status in August 2019, annulled its separate constitution, split the region into two federal territories – Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh – and subsequently removed inherited protections on land and jobs.
The action has triggered widespread anger and economic ruin amid a harsh security clampdown and communications blackout.