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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 June 2018

Four killed in a gun battle in Indian Kashmir

The fighting started when soldiers searching for militants cordoned off a neighbourhood in the northern town of Hajin

Kashmiri women comfort a wailing relative of Kashmiri rebel Irfan Ahmed, who was killed in a gun battle with Indian government forces, during his funeral in Haf-Shirmal village on October 10, 2017. Dar Yasin / The Associated Press
Kashmiri women comfort a wailing relative of Kashmiri rebel Irfan Ahmed, who was killed in a gun battle with Indian government forces, during his funeral in Haf-Shirmal village on October 10, 2017. Dar Yasin / The Associated Press

Two air force commandos and two suspected rebels were killed during a gun battle on Wednesday in Indian-administered Kashmir, the army said, during an upsurge in violence in the disputed region.

The fighting started when soldiers searching for militants cordoned off a neighbourhood in the northern town of Hajin.

"It was a difficult operation. Two militants were killed in the encounter. unfortunately two air force commandos also died," a police officer told AFP.

The deaths came two days after a leader of the banned militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad was killed in a shoot-out with government forces in Kashmir.

The Pakistani national known only as Khalid was accused of organising a string of suicide attacks across Indian-administered Kashmir, which Pakistan also claims.

Rebel groups have for years been fighting Indian soldiers deployed in the region, demanding that Kashmir be given independence or merged with Pakistan.

India accuses Pakistan of sending militants into Kashmir to launch attacks on its forces. Islamabad says it only gives diplomatic support to Kashmiris' right to self-determination.

The fighting has left tens of thousands dead, most of them civilians and earlier this year India launched "Operation Allout" to hunt down the rebels.

Police say at least 160 militants and 59 soldiers or police have been killed so far this year.

The Himalayan region has been divided between India and Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule in 1947 but both claim the territory in full.