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Kashmir gunfight leaves 10 Indian soldiers, suspected militants dead

Indian soldiers take part in a search operation after a gun battle between fighters and government forces in Balhama area of Khanmoh district near Srinagar, Kashmir, March 16, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

A gunfight has claimed the lives of five soldiers and five suspected militants in the disputed region of Kashmir, police say.

The fighters on Wednesday attacked security troops carrying out a search operation in forests around Kupwara, 95 km (60 miles) north of the main city of Srinagar, said Shamsher Hussain, senior superintendent of police in Kupwara.

"They are all Pakistanis and have probably infiltrated a few days ago," Hussain said, adding that the exchange of gunfire had stopped and the search operation was ongoing.

Tensions are high in the Indian-controlled region, where the Muslim-majority population stages regular protests against the Indian rule and demands autonomy from New Delhi.

India regularly accuses Pakistan of arming and training militants and allowing them across the restive frontier in an attempt to launch attacks on Indian forces. Pakistan strongly denies the allegation.

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan but claimed in full by both since the two were partitioned and gained independence from Britain in 1947. The two countries have fought three wars over the disputed territory. Despite a ceasefire agreement that was reached in November 2003, sporadic skirmishes continue in Kashmir.

New Delhi has deployed some 500,000 soldiers to the disputed region to further boost the security of the borderline and enforce a crackdown on pro-independence demonstrations in its share of Kashmir, where anti-India sentiments are high.

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