SRINAGAR, India (Reuters) - Indian soldiers shot dead Saturday 12 separatist militants trying to cross from Pakistan into the disputed region of Kashmir, where popular protests against Indian rule have mounted.
Fears are growing in India of an escalation in rebel incursions into Kashmir from Pakistan before winter snow blocks the Himalayan mountain passes.
"In the biggest success so far this year, the army today killed 12 terrorists in Gurez Sector, thereby foiling a major infiltration attempt," army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel J. S. Brar said, describing it as the most fierce gunbattle this year.
An Indian army officer was also killed, he added.
Gurez Sector lies on the Line of Control (LoC), a military control line that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan. Nuclear-armed neighbors claim the region in full but rule in part and have fought two wars over it.
The Indian army last week said it has stepped up its vigil along the LoC to thwart infiltration from the Pakistan-held Kashmir.
Pakistan denies providing military aid to the rebellion and says it only extends moral and diplomatic support to what it calls an independence struggle by Kashmiris. The conflict has officially killed nearly 50,0000 people.
(Reporting by Sheikh Mushtaq; Editing by Rajesh Kumar Singh)