• Intense firefight’ breaks out Wednesday after troops pursue fighters into the dense forests of Kalakote in southern Kashmir

SRINAGAR, India (Agencies): Five soldiers and two suspected rebels were killed in Indian-administered Kashmir during a firefight in the disputed Himalayan territory, an army officer said Thursday.

An “intense firefight” broke out Wednesday after troops pursued fighters into the dense forests of Kalakote in southern Kashmir, the army’s 16 Corps said in a social media post.

The fighting killed five soldiers, including two elite commandos, and left another soldier wounded, an army officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the military operation was ongoing.
The army did not give details of how many suspected rebels were involved.

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since their independence in 1947, with both claiming the high-altitude territory in full, but administering separate portions of it.

Rebel groups have waged an insurgency in Indian-controlled Kashmir since 1989, demanding independence or a merger with Pakistan. The conflict has left tens of thousands of civilians, soldiers and militants dead.

India blames Pakistan for backing the militants, a charge Islamabad denies, saying it only supports a Kashmiri struggle for the right to self-determination.

One of the two slain militants was identified as a “highly ranked” rebel leader, the army officer said, adding that the fighter was a Pakistani national who had been active in the area for the past year.

Last week, Indian soldiers killed eight rebels in the Kashmir valley, the epicenter of insurgency.

The Indian-controlled part of the territory has simmered in anger since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government annulled its limited constitutional autonomy in 2019 and imposed direct rule.

Indian authorities say at least 118 people have been killed in the conflict this year, including 11 civilians, 27 security forces and 80 suspected rebels.

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