Six separatists, one soldier die in clashes in Indian-held Kashmir


 Six suspected separatists and a soldier have died in two separate gun battles in Indian-held Kashmir as violence flared in the restive region this week, police and the army said on Friday.

Soldiers on Thursday morning intercepted a group of separatists trying to cross the heavily militarised border that divides the region between Pakistan and India known as the Line of Control (LoC).

An intense two-day firefight ensued in which four suspected separatists died, while a soldier also perished, army spokesperson NN Joshi said.

“Four terrorists were killed during the operation, three on Thursday and one today (Friday). One soldier was also martyred,” Joshi told AFP.

A separate clash Friday saw two suspected separatists killed in Kanchipora near the tourist resort of Gulmarg, police said.

Government forces cordoned off the village following information that separatists were hiding inside a house, triggering a fierce gun battle, police superintendent Imtiaz Hussain told AFP.

Two security personnel were injured during the firefight another police officer told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Kashmir has been divided between arch-rivals India and Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule in 1947. Both claim the Himalayan territory in its entirety.

Several separatist groups have for decades fought hundreds of thousands of Indian forces deployed in the restive territory, demanding independence or merger of the Muslim-majority region with Pakistan.

The fighting has left tens of thousands, mostly civilians, dead.

Overall violence in the disputed region has sharply declined during the last decade, but this month has witnessed an uptick in armed encounters, leaving six members of the security forces, two civilians and 15 militants dead.

India regularly accuses Pakistan of arming and pushing separatists across the border to launch attacks. Islamabad denies the allegation, saying it only provides moral and diplomatic support to the Kashmiri struggle for the right of self-determination.

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