File Photo: Indian paramilitary troopers stand guard during a lockdown, in Srinagar on September 6, 2019
Indian Kashmir, which is also claimed by Pakistan, has seen a fresh surge of armed clashes between rebels and soldiers in recent weeks
Two armed intruders and two Indian soldiers were killed Thursday in Indian-administered Kashmir, the Indian army said, the first such skirmish near the de facto border with Pakistan since February after the arch-rivals declared a truce on the frontier.
Indian Army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Devender Anand said the four combatants were killed fighting in the southern Sundarbani sector of the Line of Control (LoC) after a “search and destroy patrol” was deployed following information about infiltration from the Pakistan side of the disputed border on June 29.
Anand said the intruders were finally found after ten days of searching when they lobbed hand grenades, sparking a “fierce encounter” in a forested area during which two soldiers “received fatal injuries.”
This was the first instance of fighting along the border in nearly five months since a renewed deal between India and Pakistan in February to strictly adhere to a 2003 ceasefire agreement.
Indian and Pakistani troops regularly targeted each other with small arms and mortars along the highly militarised border.
However, the latest incident did not involve the Pakistani military.
Indian Kashmir, which is also claimed by Pakistan, has seen a fresh surge of armed clashes between rebels and soldiers in recent weeks.
At least 24 suspected rebels have been killed fighting Indian soldiers during the last three weeks.
Officials said 71 armed rebels were killed this year so far in the Muslim-majority region where India has at least 500,000 soldiers deployed.
The surge in violence came after Prime Minister Narendra Modi last month held talks with 14 pro-India leaders from Kashmir, the first political engagement from New Delhi after it cancelled Kashmir’s semi-autonomous status and divided the region into two territories in August 2019.
Public anger with New Delhi has steadily increased in the region, where rebel groups have fought Indian forces since 1989, demanding either independence for Kashmir or its merger with Pakistan, which controls a part of the divided territory.
The conflict has left tens of thousands dead, mainly civilians.