Mon, Jun 21, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Indian troops kill 5 rebels along Kashmir border

AFP , SRINAGAR, INDIA

Indian troops shot dead five Muslims rebels trying to enter Indian-administered Kashmir from the Pakistani-zone of the disputed Himalayan state, a police officer said.

He said on Saturday the militants were gunned down in the Machil sector of northern Kupwara district after they had crossed the Line of Control (LOC) -- the de facto border that divides Kashmir between nuclear-rivals India and Pakistan.

"By killing five militants the troops have foiled a major infiltration attempt by the rebels to enter our region," a police officer said, adding the security forces had been tipped in advance about a possible infiltration.

"The searches in the area along the LOC are continuing," he said, adding that arms and ammunition had been recovered at the scene of fighting, which had lasted for more than 20 hours.

The incident marked the second infiltration attempt foiled by the Indian army in less than a month in the district of Kupwara.

In a previous attempt, six militants were killed along the LOC when they were trying to cross into Indian Kashmir.

On Thursday, a senior Indian army officer said cross-border infiltration had gone up with the coming of the summer.

"The rate of ingress has gone up with the melting of snow along the infiltration routes," Lieutenant General Hari Prasad said.

"In all 41 militants were killed during 18 infiltration bids since the start of the year," he said.

Kashmir is in the grip of a 15-year-old anti-Indian insurgency that has left thousands dead so far.

India accuses Pakistan of arming and pushing militants into Kashmir, a charge vehemently denied by Islamabad, which terms the insurgency as an indigenous struggle by Kashmiris "for the right to self-determination."

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