Five Indian soldiers were killed during a search operation in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) on Monday, Indian army said, stoking tensions in the occupied territory.
Separately, two freedom fighters embraced martyrdom in different incidents, authorities said.
Colonel Devendar Anand told AFP that one officer and four soldiers “were killed during a search operation probably by infiltrators” in a mountain pass near the Line of Control (LoC). “The operation is ongoing,” he added.
The shootings were the deadliest attack on military forces in the area since a ceasefire along the LoC was announced in February.
For over three decades, separatist groups have been fighting Indian soldiers and demanding independence for IIOJK or its merger with Pakistan.
Tens of thousands of civilians, soldiers and rebels have died in the fighting.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government angered Kashmiris in 2019 by scrapping the Muslim-majority region’s semi-autonomous status.
This was accompanied by a huge security operation and communications blackout with tens of thousands of extra soldiers joining the estimated half a million already on the ground.
Tensions have flared further in recent weeks with a spate of shootings of civilians in the area, with seven killed last week alone in attacks.
Some 650 residents suspected to have links with rebel groups have been detained following the shootings, a police source said.
“No stone will be left unturned to find the killers,” the senior police officer told AFP on condition of anonymity.
A relatively new group The Resistance Front claimed responsibility for the seven killings last week and accused those killed of working for “occupier mercenary forces and occupier stooges”.
The statements, issued only in English, were circulated in numerous WhatsApp groups and could not be independently verified by AFP.
One of the two suspected rebels killed on Monday was suspected of being involved, authorities said.
His family told reporters that soldiers picked him up on Sunday at then shot him while in their custody.
On Saturday, the Human Rights Watch called for Indian security forces accused of abuses including harassment, torture and extrajudicial killings to be held accountable.
“Kashmiris are caught in unending violence from attacks by militants and abuses by government authorities and security forces,” HRW’s South Asia director Meenakshi Ganguly said in a statement.