SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Five Indian soldiers and three suspected militants were killed Sunday after rebels stormed a paramilitary camp in disputed Kashmir, triggering a daylong battle, officials said.
Separately, Indian and Pakistani soldiers traded gunfire along the highly militarized line dividing Kashmir between the two rivals, killing an Indian soldier, India‘s army said.
In the incident at the paramilitary camp, gunmen in combat dress entered the camp near southern Lethpora village early Sunday firing guns and grenades at the sentry, said paramilitary spokesman Rajesh Yadav. He said soldiers inside the camp responded to the attack, which left at least three soldiers wounded.
The camp is located along the strategic highway connecting the Kashmir Valley with the rest of India and close to the chain of plateaus famed for Kashmir‘s saffron fields. Besides counterinsurgency operations, the camp also serves as a training center for soldiers.
The Jash-e-Mohammed militant group, which is fighting against Indian rule in Kashmir, claimed responsibility for the attack, according to the English-language Greater Kashmir newspaper. The paper quoted the group as saying that “such attacks will continue till the last Indian soldier leaves Kashmir.”
The initial assault on the camp left one paramilitary soldier dead and two others wounded. Police said reinforcements of army soldiers and counterinsurgency police encircled the camp and exchanged gunfire with the assailants.
In the subsequent fighting, three more paramilitary soldiers and two suspected rebels were killed. Another soldier died of cardiac arrest while being evacuated along with many others who were trapped in the camp‘s residential buildings.
Police said the fighting stopped Sunday night with the killing of a third militant, and that troops were searching the camp area.
Anti-India unrest has simmered in Kashmir since a popular rebel leader was killed over a year ago. Apart from mass anti-India protests and clashes often leading to the deaths of protesters since the leader‘s killing, dozens of young Kashmiri men have joined rebel groups, leading to a surge in attacks. The Indian government responded by stepping up anti-rebel operations.
Over 200 militants, 78 police officers and soldiers, and at least 57 civilians have died in the violence this year, the deadliest since 2010.
Also on Sunday, the Indian army said one soldier was killed after Pakistani troops fired at forward posts in Nowshera sector along the highly militarized Line of Control dividing Kashmir between the two nuclear-armed rivals.
Col. Nitin Joshi, an Indian military spokesman, called it an “unprovoked violation” of the 2003 cease-fire accord between the two countries, and said the Indian army “retaliated strongly and effectively.”
There was no immediate reaction from Pakistan.
India and Pakistan have a long history of bitter relations over the Himalayan territory of Kashmir. They have fought two of their three wars over the region since they gained independence from British colonial rule in 1947.
Rebel groups demand that Kashmir be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.
Anti-India sentiment runs deep in Kashmir‘s mostly Muslim population and most people support the rebels‘ cause against Indian rule. Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown since 1989. India accuses Pakistan of arming and training the rebels, which Pakistan denies.