SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Heavily armed suspected militants fought a fierce gunbattle with soldiers in the Indian portion of Kashmir on Thursday, and three civilians were among the nine dead, authorities said.
Some of the militants were still holed up in an abandoned bunker in Jammu region and were firing at the Indian soldiers in Arnia sector, said an officer who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to talk to reporters.
The army rushed reinforcements and cordoned off the area amid a heavy exchange of gunfire nearly 330 kilometers (205 miles) south of Srinagar, the main city in the Indian portion of Kashmir. A hovering Indian helicopter kept vigil, the officer said.
Two other Indian soldiers were wounded in the exchange of gunfire that continued for more than six hours, he said.
Three civilians in an Indian border village suffered bullet wounds and died in a hospital, said K. Rajendra, the top state police officer.
Shantmanu, a state government official who uses one name, said civilians in the village were evacuated and schools closed for the day.
Arnia is the sector where Indian and Pakistani troops had exchanged massive shelling and firing in late September and October, killing 20 people and wounding more than 100 on both sides. The clashes were the most serious violation of a 2003 cease-fire agreement.
The army officer said the attackers in Thursday's fighting crossed over from Pakistani territory, but there was no confirmation of that.
Dozens of rebel groups have been fighting Indian rule over the region since 1989. More than 68,000 people have been killed in the fighting and in a subsequent Indian military crackdown.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan. They have fought three wars, two of them over control of Kashmir, since they won independence from British colonialists in 1947.