Kashmir tensions increase as more Indian soldiers die in fighting

Smoke and fire billow from a residential house during a gunfight at Pinglena village in Pulwama south of Kashmir. Photo: EPA/ Farooq Khan.

Four Indian soldiers, two suspected militants and a civilian have been killed in a gun battle in disputed Kashmir, further escalating tensions in the region.

Officials said another soldier was wounded in the battle, which came after a local Kashmiri militant rammed an explosive-laden van into a paramilitary bus on Thursday.

At least 40 soldiers were killed in that attack, which was the worst against Indian government forces in Kashmir's history.

The fresh fighting erupted early on Monday after government forces surrounded a village in the southern Pulwama area on a tip that militants were hiding there, security officials said.

As troops began conducting searches they came under heavy gunfire, leading to fatalities, police said.

Local residents said troops destroyed one house through explosives during the fighting. Police said they recovered the bodies of two militants from the debris. A civilian was also killed in the crossfire, police said.

The dead soldiers included an Indian army major. The wounded soldier was reported to be in a critical condition.

The fighting triggered anti-India protests and clashes in the village, with local residents, mainly youths, trying to march to the site of the gun battle in solidarity with the rebels.

Government forces fired tear gas at stone-throwing protesters.

Tensions have escalated in the region since Thursday's attack, which India blamed on Pakistan, promising a "jaw-breaking response".

Pakistan warned India not to link it to the attack without an investigation, saying that it was part of New Delhi's "known rhetoric and tactics" to divert global attention from human rights violations in Kashmir.

Rivals India and Pakistan each administer part of Kashmir, but both claim the region in its entirety.

PAand Digital Desk

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