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13 Killed As Violence Surges in Kashmir

July 3, 2006

SRINAGAR, India (AP) _ Clashes between Indian government forces and suspected Islamic separatist militants killed 13 people in India’s Jammu-Kashmir state, officials said Monday.

Nine militants and a soldier died in three incidents in the Kashmir area, the army said, while police said they had killed three militants, including a senior leader, in two other encounters in the Jammu portion of the state.

More than a dozen rebel groups have been fighting since 1989 for Muslim-majority Kashmir’s independence from predominantly Hindu India or its merger with mostly Muslim Pakistan. The conflict has killed more than 67,000 people.

Kashmir is a Himalayan territory claimed by both India and Pakistan and divided between them. Although Jammu territory is not under dispute, India’s Jammu-Kashmir state is commonly referred to simply as Kashmir.

In the Kashmir part of the state, a large force from the Indian army cordoned off the village of Gambru late Sunday after receiving a tip that several militants had gathered there, said army spokesman Col. Hemant Juneja.

The troops came under fire as they approached two houses, starting an all-night gunbattle. A soldier and a suspected militant were killed, Juneja said. Later, the army said it had found the body of a second militant.

Three soldiers were wounded, one critically, he said. Soldiers were searching for other gunmen.

Gambru is 40 miles north of Srinagar, Jammu-Kashmir’s summer capital.

Hours later, security forces killed a suspected militant in a gunbattle in an eastern suburb of Srinagar. Two paramilitary soldiers and a civilian were wounded, Juneja said.

Also Monday, Indian troops identified a group of suspected militants crossing the Line of Control, the de facto frontier between Indian and Pakistani Kashmir, late Sunday. The ensuing fight left four infiltrators killed, Juneja said.

The incident occurred in the Gulmarg area, about 50 miles north of Srinagar. There were no army casualties.

Later Monday, two suspected militants were killed in a gunbattle with paramilitary soldiers in Wangund, an eastern suburb of Srinagar, said Dileep Singh, a spokesman of the Central Reserve Police Force. A soldier was injured, he said.

Elsewhere, police raided a rebel hide-out in the mountainous Sharekhi district late Sunday, killing a senior militant, identified as Tariq Usman Sheikh, the district commander of the Hizbul Mujahedeen group, said local police chief Manohar Singh.

In another incident, police surrounded a group of militants in the Tramda Nari area, about 120 miles northwest of Jammu.

Two militants were killed and police continued to battle others, said area superintendent Farooq Khan.

India accuses longtime rival Pakistan of training, arming and funding the militants. Islamabad denies the charge, saying it only offers the rebels diplomatic and moral support.

The two nuclear-armed neighbor countries have fought two wars over Kashmir since their independence from Britain in 1947.

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Associated Press Writer Binoo Joshi in Jammu contributed to this report.

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