Two Indian soldiers killed as Kashmir tensions escalate
The soldiers were chasing rebels in a forested area in southern Kashmir when a gun battle erupted late Thursday, Colonel Devendar Anand told AFP.
The hunt in the Mendhar region had been intensified since five soldiers were killed nearby three days earlier.
Violence in the Muslim-majority territory, also claimed by Pakistan, has escalated since last week, when armed militants staged attacks that left seven civilians dead, including three from the minority Hindu and Sikh communities.
Some members of the minority communities have since left the restive Kashmir valley fearing they will be targeted, media reported, echoing scenes during another surge in violence in the 1990s when thousands of Hindus fled the region.
Eight suspected rebels have also been killed in battles and military raids in the past two weeks, police said. More than 120 have been killed this year.
The family of one of the dead suspects has denied that the youth had any links to recent attacks, saying he was detained by soldiers and killed in a staged incident in custody.
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since their independence from British rule in 1947. The nuclear-armed rivals have fought two wars over the Himalayan region.
An armed rebellion erupted in Indian Kashmir in 1989 and tens of thousands have been killed since. Separatist groups and parties demand independence for the territory or its merger with Pakistan.
Tensions have also risen since the Hindu nationalist government ended the region's semi-autonomy and put it under direct central control in August 2019.
Pakistan denies India's repeated accusations that it supports the rebels.