SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Indian soldiers and police killed five suspected rebels during a fierce gunbattle Thursday in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, officials said.
Security forces received a tip that militants opposed to Indian rule in Kashmir were hiding in the southern region of Shopian, army spokesman Lt. Col. Nitin N. Joshi said. The troops cordoned off a portion of the forest, and the gunbattle erupted when the militants hurled grenades and opened fire in an attempt to break through, he said.
When the fighting ended Thursday afternoon, five militant suspects were confirmed dead and their bodies were recovered from the forest along with four rifles and a pistol, police said.
There was no independent confirmation of the incident, and no guerrilla group has commented on the report. On Wednesday, police said government troops killed a suspected rebel in a gunbattle in the northern town of Sopore.
Rebel groups have been fighting since 1989 to win Kashmir's independence or have the Indian-controlled portion merge with Pakistan.
More than 68,000 people have died in the conflict, though incidents of violence have largely been suppressed by Indian forces.
Public opposition to Indian rule remains widespread in the mostly Muslim territory, with street protests erupting frequently and youths hurling stones at security forces.
Both India and Pakistan control parts of Kashmir, and both claim it in its entirety.