SRINAGAR - Indian security forces killed three suspected freedom fighters in restive Kashmir on Monday during an ongoing gunbattle, police said.
Soldiers and police special force cordoned off a village northwest of Srinagar on suspicion that rebels were hiding inside, sparking the mid-afternoon gunbattle, a police officer said.
The battle at Dangerpora village just outside the town of Sopore, 45 kilometres from Srinagar, was still going on, police superintendent Abdul Qayoom told AFP. "We have seen three bodies so far. Two more (fighters) could still be engaged in fighting," Qayoom said.
The firefight comes one week after militants killed a senior counter-insurgency police officer and wounded three others in the same area. About a dozen rebel groups have been fighting Indian forces since 1989 for independence or merger of the disputed territory with Pakistan. Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan since the two countries won independence from Britain in 1947 but the Himalayan territory is claimed in full by both.
The violence, which has left tens of thousands, mostly civilians, dead has been on a steady decline since the 2000s, but police say militants inflicted a heavy toll on security forces in 2013. Sixty one government security officers were killed last year in the fighting, compared to 47 officers for all of 2011 and 2012 put together, according to figures released recently by authorities. A total of 63 militants were killed in Indian Kashmir last year.
Indian police and army officials have voiced fears that Pakistan may divert battle-hardened fighters from Afghanistan to Kashmir after the US forces drawdown this year.
Many Afghan fighters were killed fighting Indian forces alongside Kashmiri militants after the armed rebellion against Indian rule erupted in the disputed territory. Police say only about 200-300 militants are still fighting now.