SRINAGAR, India, March 22, 2009 (AFP) - Five Indian soldiers and six Muslim rebels were killed in separate gunbattles in Kashmir on Sunday, police said, a day after Pakistani and Indian troops traded fire across the de facto border.
|Kashmiri Muslims throw stones towards Indian Police during a protest in Srinagar on March 20, 2009 (Photo: AFP)|
The deaths came during some of the fiercest fighting in the disputed region for months and followed Saturday's cross-border firing that left one Indian soldier injured.
The clashes on Sunday erupted in the northern Kupwara district as Indian troops launched a search operation in thick forest.
"As the troops moved in, militants opened fire killing five soldiers, including an officer," a police officer said, adding two militants had died in retaliatory firing.
"The fighting is still going on," he said, adding army reinforcements have been rushed to the area.
Indian troops also shot dead four more militants in two separate incidents in the same district, police said.
Kupwara borders Pakistan-administered Kashmir and is often used by militants to cross into Indian Kashmir.
Pakistan and India agreed to a 2003 ceasefire along the Line of Control, which divides Kashmir between the two countries, and have since held slow-moving peace talks.
The negotiations came to a halt after last November's Islamist militant attacks on Mumbai that India has blamed on the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba.
New Delhi has also accused "official agencies" in Pakistan -- a reference to the Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency -- of involvement in the Mumbai attacks.
India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars over mainly Muslim Kashmir, which is held in part by each country but claimed in full by both.