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Rebels, soldier killed in Kashmir fighting

Six suspected rebels and an Indian soldier have been killed in two separate counterinsurgency operations in disputed Kashmir, police say.

The killings on Thursday came during a surge in the government’s offensive against anti-India rebels in Kashmir, which is divided between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan and claimed by both.

Fighting erupted after government forces cordoned off two southern villages in Anantnag and Pulwama districts on Wednesday night in search of militants reportedly hiding there, police said.

Six militants were killed in the two incidents, police said. Three soldiers and two police officers were also injured, and one of the soldiers died later at a hospital, officials said.

Police said in a statement that two of the slain suspected militants were Pakistani nationals but offered no evidence.

It said three of the dead, including a Pakistani, were involved in an attack on a police bus in the outskirts of the region’s main city of Srinagar on December 13 in which three police officers were killed and 11 others wounded.

According to government records, at least 168 militants, 34 civilians and 30 Indian troops have been killed this year in the Kashmir Valley.

Rebels in Indian-controlled Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule since 1989.

Most Muslim Kashmiris support the rebels’ goal of uniting the territory, either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.

India insists the Kashmir militancy is Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. Pakistan denies the charge, and most Kashmiris consider it a legitimate freedom struggle.

Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces have been killed in the conflict.

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