9 rebels, Indian soldier killed in Kashmir fighting

SRINAGAR, INDIA: Nine rebels and an Indian soldier were killed in two gunbattles in disputed Kashmir, an Indian army official said Sunday.

Indian soldiers killed five suspected militants along the highly militarized de facto front line in Keran sector on Sunday as an armed group of militants infiltrated from the Pakistani side of Kashmir into the Indian-controlled part, said Col. Rajesh Kalia, an Indian army spokesman.

Kalia said one soldier was also killed and two others were injured in the fighting.

There was no independent confirmation of the incident.

The other gunbattle broke out in a neighbourhood in southern Kulgam town as police and soldiers scoured the area looking for militants on Saturday, Kalia said. He said that as troops began conducting searches, they came under heavy gunfire, leading to a clash that killed four militants.

The fighting comes amid an ongoing lockdown in Kashmir to combat spread of the coronavirus.

Nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan each administer part of Kashmir, but both claim the Himalayan territory in its entirety. Rebel groups have been fighting since 1989 for Kashmir’s independence or merger with neighbouring Pakistan. India has accused Pakistan of arming and training the rebels, which Pakistan denies.

Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the fighting and the ensuing Indian crackdown.

Anti-India sentiment runs deep among the region’s mostly Muslim population and most people support the rebels’ cause against Indian rule despite a decades-long military crackdown to fight the armed rebellion.