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Six killed after soldiers, rebels clash in Indian Kashmir

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Three Indian soldiers and three suspected rebels were killed in fighting near the de facto Kashmir border with Pakistan, the army said Sunday, in the deadliest clash to hit the contested region in months.

The fighting began early Sunday after soldiers detected “suspicious” movements in the northern forested Machil area near a military fence that marks the de facto border known as the Line of Control (LoC), Colonel Rajesh Kalia said.

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One Indian border guard and one suspected militant were killed in an initial exchange of gunfire, before more troops were “rushed to the area”, he said in a statement.

Two more soldiers and two more suspected rebels were later killed while two other injured troops were taken to hospital, Kalia added.

The clash was the deadliest since April when nine suspected militants and three soldiers were killed in two separate incidents in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since independence in 1947 and there have been regular exchanges of gunfire and mortars across the LoC.

The flare-ups have increased since August last year when India’s Hindu-nationalist government revoked the restive region’s semi-autonomous status.

Tensions have remained high since then and there has also been growing anger over a measure allowing outsiders to buy land in the disputed territory.

Many Kashmiris have accused the government of seeking to water down the local population in India’s only Muslim-majority territory.

Last week, Islamabad said it would grant provincial status to Gilgit-Baltistan — a mountainous territory bordering China and Afghanistan in Pakistan-administered Kashmir that India also claims — a move that angered New Delhi.

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The nuclear rivals have fought two wars over Kashmir. Rebels groups have also waged an insurgency against Indian soldiers for more than three decades over their demands for independence or a merger of the entire territory with Pakistan.

The fighting has killed tens of thousands of people — mostly civilians.

New Delhi accuses Pakistan of arming and training rebel groups to launch attacks on Indian forces, a charge Islamabad denies.

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