SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Indian soldiers on Tuesday battled two groups of suspected militants along the highly militarized de facto border dividing the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir between India and Pakistan, leaving one soldier dead, the Indian army said.
Army spokesman Col. Rajesh Kalia said soldiers also intercepted two large groups of suspected rebels that had infiltrated into the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir from the Pakistani-held portion.
Both gunbattles were continuing and one soldier had been killed in the fighting, an army officer said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Earlier Tuesday, Kalia said Pakistani soldiers violated the 2003 cease-fire accord between India and Pakistan by firing bullets at an Indian military position from across the heavily fortified frontier in Uri region, where early Sunday four suspected rebels killed 18 Indian soldiers in an audacious attack on a crucial military base. The militants were also killed in the attack.
Kalia did not give more details about the reported cease-fire violation.
In Pakistan, two senior army officers dismissed the Indian allegation as baseless. The officers, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk on the record, said no Pakistani troops had fired at any Indian military position in Kashmir.
Kalia said soldiers were exchanging fierce gunfire with the two groups of militants in Uri region and Nowgam sector.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan by a heavily militarized and mountainous frontier called the Line of Control.
The two nuclear-armed rivals have fought three wars, including two over their competing claims to the Himalayan territory, though the 2003 cease-fire has largely held despite small but regular skirmishes.
They use separate paramilitary forces to guard their lower-altitude frontier, defined by coils of razor wire that snake across foothills marked by ancient villages, tangled bushes and fields of rice and corn.
Sunday's attack heightened tensions between India and Pakistan and provoked calls for revenge, with New Delhi blaming Islamabad-backed militants for the deadly strike, an allegation Pakistan strongly denied.
The latest hostility between the neighboring countries comes amid the largest protests against Indian rule in Kashmir in recent years, sparked by the July 8 killing of a popular rebel commander by Indian soldiers.
The protests, and a sweeping military crackdown, have all but paralyzed life in Indian-controlled Kashmir. More than 80 people have been killed in the protests.
Associated Press writer Munir Ahmed in Islamabad, Pakistan, contributed to this report.