May 7, 2010 / 11:37 AM / 10 years ago

Indian soldiers clash with Kashmir rebels, 7 killed

SRINAGAR, India (Reuters) - Two Indian soldiers and five separatist guerrillas were killed in a fierce gun battle on Friday in Kashmir, an army spokesman said.

It was the third such clash in the disputed Himalayan state in a week and comes amid Indian fears of an escalation in rebel violence after a period of relative calm.

Separatist militants fighting Indian rule in Kashmir step up attacks during the summer months as snow melts the region’s mountain passes, allowing easier movement of militants from Pakistani territory, Indian security officials say.

“Following a tip off, troops cordoned a forest area in Rafiabad area. The hiding terrorists opened fire and in the ensuing fierce encounter five terrorists and two soldiers were killed,” Indian army spokesman Vineet Sood said.

Rafiabad lies near the military control line that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan.

New Delhi consistently accuses Pakistan of arming, training

and sending militants to its part of Kashmir, a charge Islamabad denies. Both claim the territory in full but rule in parts.

The prime ministers of the two countries met in Bhutan last week and asked officials to take steps to normalise relations between the nuclear-armed neighbours.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed since an anti-India insurgency broke out in 1989 in Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority region.

Reporting by Sheikh Mushtaq; Editing by Matthias Williams and Jerry Norton

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