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3 Indian soldiers, 2 suspected rebels killed in Kashmir

3 Indian soldiers, 2 suspected rebels killed in Kashmir

SRINAGAR, India — At least three Indian soldiers and two suspected rebels were killed on Thursday after militants stormed a military camp close to the heavily militarized Line of Control dividing the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir between India and Pakistan, officials said.

The militants used guns and grenades to target soldiers northwest of Kashmir's main city of Srinagar, said army spokesman Col. Rajesh Kalia.

The attack in Panzgam area came when a group of at least three militants hurled grenades and fired automatic weapons at the sentry of the highly guarded army camp, a police officer said, speaking on customary condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak to the media.

Two militants were killed in an ensuing gunfight, while another was believed to have escaped, the officer said.

He said that three soldiers, including an army officer, were killed and five soldiers were wounded in the attack. The injured soldiers were airlifted to the Indian army's main base in Srinagar for specialized treatment.

There was no independent confirmation of the incident and no rebel group fighting against Indian rule has immediately issued any statement.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Kashmiri civilians a few kilometres (miles) from the battle took to the streets in solidarity with the militants while chanting anti-India slogans. Protesters hurled rocks at police and paramilitary soldiers who fired tear gas and warning shots to break up the demonstration. No one was reported injured in the clashes.

India and Pakistan each administer a portion of Kashmir, but both claim the territory in its entirety. Most people in the Indian-controlled portion favour independence or a merger with Pakistan.

Nearly 70,000 people have been killed since 1989 in the rebel uprising and a subsequent Indian military crackdown.

Rebel groups have largely been suppressed by Indian forces in recent years. However, public opposition to Indian rule remains deep and is now principally expressed through street protests marked by youths hurling stones at government forces.

Aijaz Hussain, The Associated Press