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Indian Army Claims Rebel Killings

August 7, 1999

SOPORE, India (AP) _ Indian troops tracked down Islamic militants who attacked a military camp, killing 10 guerrillas during a firefight in the disputed Kashmir region, the military said Saturday. At least six soldiers died in later clashes.

The soldiers caught up with the separatist rebels and killed the 10 on Friday in Ramhal and Dachina Wayosa villages in Sopore district, 45 miles north of the state capital, Srinagar, said Maj. Gen. R.K. Kaushal.

The fighting was prompted by earlier violence, when the militants attacked the base near Nathnaso village, 60 miles north of Srinagar. Five guerrillas and five Indian soldiers were killed in that fight.

The Hizbul Mujahideen, one of several groups waging a violent campaign to sever Kashmir from India, claimed responsibility for the attack on the base.

There were also reports of separate clashes Saturday. The militant group said 15 soldiers died in confrontations in the Sopore district, while the military said six soldiers were killed. There was no way to independently determine the death toll.

India has been fighting an insurgency by Islamic secessionist groups since 1989. India accuses Pakistan of training and arming the guerrillas, a charge Pakistan denies.

In May, India launched an offensive to dislodge hundreds of rebels who occupied mountain peaks in Indian-controlled Kashmir. The Indian troops dislodged the guerrillas after 11 weeks of fighting that killed 1,300 combatants on both sides.

Skirmishes and shelling have continued along the cease-fire line that divides the Himalayan territory of Kashmir between India and Pakistan.

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