SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Four Indian army soldiers and a suspected rebel were killed in fighting in the Indian portion of Kashmir on Friday, officials said.
Lt. Col. Ankur Vashist, an army spokesman, said suspected rebels ambushed and fatally shot three soldiers who were heading for Buchoo village following intelligence that some insurgents were hiding there.
Army reinforcements rushed and searched a nearby forest area and lost another soldier in an exchange of gunfire with suspected rebels, Vashist said.
Police officer Abdul Gani Mir said one suspected militant also was killed in the fighting 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of Srinagar, the main city in the disputed Himalayan region.
The army was continuing its search for three more suspected militants believed to be hiding in the forest area, Vashist said.
No rebel groups fighting Indian rule have issued any statement on the fighting and it was not possible to independently verify the incident.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and the two have fought two wars over its control since they won independence from Britain in 1947.
Rebel groups have been fighting for Kashmir’s independence from India or merger with Pakistan since 1989. More than 68,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in the fighting.
While the armed rebellion has largely been suppressed by Indian forces, anti-India sentiment runs deep in Kashmir and the resistance is now principally through street demonstrations.
India accuses Pakistan of arming and training the insurgents. Islamabad denies the charge, saying it gives only moral and diplomatic support to the rebels.