India says 4 rebels killed in gunbattle near Kashmir border

SRINAGAR: The Indian army said it killed four militants in a fierce gunbattle Sunday near the Kashmir border separating Pakistan from India's portion of the Himalayan region.

Army spokesman Colonel NN Joshi said the gunbattle began early Sunday in the state's Kupwara district, when the rebels were seen moving in the area. When challenged by soldiers patrolling the area, the rebels opened fire and a gunfight followed in which four of them were killed.

In a separate incident, a policeman was killed when a gunbattle broke out between rebels and security forces in the state's Poonch district.

The Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir has been racked by protests for the past two months following the killing of a top rebel leader. More than 70 civilians have been killed and thousands wounded, mostly by government forces firing bullets and shotgun pellets to quell the protests.

India accuses Pakistan of training and financing militants and helping them infiltrate into Indian Kashmir. Islamabad denies the charge, saying it offers only moral and diplomatic support to the militants and to Kashmiris who oppose Indian rule.

More than 68,000 people have been killed since rebel groups began fighting Indian forces in 1989 and in the subsequent Indian military crackdown.