Indian Air Force Commandos killed in occupied Kashmir operation

Indian Air Force Commandos killed in occupied Kashmir operation

SRINAGAR: Two air force commandos and two suspected rebels were killed during a gunbattle Wednesday in Indian occupied Kashmir , the army said, during an upsurge in violence in the disputed region.

The fighting started when soldiers searching for militants cordoned off a neighbourhood in the northern town of Hajin.

"It was a difficult operation. Two militants were killed in the encounter. unfortunately two air force commandos also died," a police officer told AFP.

The deaths came two days after a leader of the banned militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad was killed in a shoot-out with government forces in Kashmir .

Khalid was accused of organising a string of suicide attacks across Indian-administered Kashmir , which Pakistan also claims.

Rebel groups have for years been fighting Indian soldiers deployed in the region, demanding that Kashmir be given independence or merged with Pakistan.

India accuses Pakistan of sending militants into Kashmir to launch attacks on its forces. Meanwhile Islamabad says it only gives diplomatic support to Kashmiris' right to self-determination.

The fighting has left tens of thousands dead, most of them civilians and earlier this year India launched "Operation Allout" to hunt down the rebels.

Police say at least 160 militants and 59 soldiers or police have been killed so far this year.

The Himalayan region has been divided between India and Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule in 1947 but both claim the territory in full.

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