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9 killed in Kashmir gunfight days after deadly bombing

The photo shows a house in flames after a gunfight in Pulwama district, southern Kashmir, February 18, 2019. (By AFP)

At least nine people, including five Indian soldiers, have been killed in a fresh gun battle in Kashmir, days after a bomb attack claimed the lives of over 40 paramilitary troops in the disputed Himalayan region.

Indian security sources said four soldiers, a policeman, three fighters and a civilian were killed during the hours-long gunfight in Pinglan village of Pulwama district on Monday.

Six senior army men including a brigadier and a lieutenant colonel were also injured during clashes in the region, located south of Kashmir's main city of Srinagar.

On Sunday, hundreds of Indian soldiers raided villages and fired warning shots at a suspected hideout of fighters. Images showed flames and smoke billowing out of one of the houses in the area.

"The encounter is still in progress and the security forces are on the job," police said in a statement. But the 17-hour engagement that ended shortly before 1330 GMT came at a cost for India's security services. An indefinite curfew has been imposed and police have asked people to stay indoors.

Police said on Sunday that Indian forces had detained nearly two dozen men suspected of links to the people who carried out the Thursday bombing.

New Delhi forces have launched a massive hunt since an explosives-packed van struck a military convoy transporting 2,500 security men along a key highway in the disputed region. The Indian government has blamed Pakistan for the bomb attack that killed at least 41 paramilitaries.

Mastermind of Kashmir bombing killed in clash

Indian security sources also said the three people killed on Monday were all Pakistani nationals and members of a Pakistan-based militant group. One of them has been identified as Abdul Rashid Gazi, who went by the alias Kamran Bhai and is suspected of playing a leading role in organizing the Thursday attack.

The bombing has caused widespread anger across India, with some demonstrations and TV news channels demanding military action against Pakistan.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has vowed a strong response to the attack.

Kashmir has been split between India and Pakistan since partition in 1947. Both countries claim all of Kashmir and have fought three wars over the territory.

Indian troops are in constant clashes with armed groups seeking Kashmir’s independence or its merger with Pakistan.

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

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