Suspected rebels have attacked an Indian army post in Indian-administered Kashmir, killing three soldiers, while two attackers died in the shoot-out that came amid heightened security in the run-up to India’s Independence Day celebrations.
The attack in the remote Darhal area of southern Rajouri district of India’s only Muslim majority region took place in the early hours on Thursday.
At least two assailants armed with guns and grenades attacked the camp, said Mukesh Singh, a senior police officer, adding that the soldiers responded to the attack, triggering a gun battle that lasted for at least three hours.
In addition to the five deaths, two soldiers were injured in the fighting, Singh said.
The area around the post was cordoned off afterwards as security forces conducted searches, an army official said.
“Three soldiers were killed and two were injured in the attack. However, troops fired back and killed two militants,” the official said, asking not to be named as he was not authorised to speak with the media.
There was no independent confirmation of the incident.
On Wednesday, police said government forces killed three rebels in Budgam district during a counterinsurgency operation.
The attacks come just days after the third anniversary of the revocation of the Himalayan region’s constitutional autonomy by the Indian government.
India is set to celebrate the 75th anniversary of independence from British colonial rule on Monday.
Many Kashmiris saw the loss of special autonomy as another step in the erosion of the rights of Muslims by India’s Hindu nationalist government.
The government rejects the charge, saying it would promote the region’s development by drawing it closer to the rest of the country.
The Himalayan region has been disputed by India and neighbouring Pakistan since the end of colonial rule in 1947, with both countries claiming it in full but ruling it in part.
India holds the populous Kashmir Valley and the Hindu-dominated region around Jammu city, while Pakistan controls a wedge of territory in the west, and its ally China holds a thinly populated high-altitude area in the mostly Buddhist northern Ladakh region.
Rebels in Kashmir have been fighting New Delhi’s rule since 1989. Most Muslim Kashmiris support the rebel goal of uniting the territory, either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.
India insists the Kashmir rebellion is sponsored by Pakistan, which denies the charge. Most Kashmiris consider the rebellion as a legitimate freedom struggle.
Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces have been killed in the conflict in the past three decades.