Five soldiers killed and two suspected freedom fighters were martyred in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) during a firefight in the disputed Himalayan territory, an army officer said Thursday.
An “intense firefight” broke out Wednesday after troops pursued fighters into the dense forests of Kalakote in southern IIOJK, the army’s 16 Corps said in a social media post.
The fighting killed five soldiers, including two elite commandos, and left another soldier wounded, an army officer told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity because the military operation was ongoing.
The army did not give details of how many suspected freedom fighters were involved.
Freedom fighter groups have waged an insurgency in IOJK since 1989, demanding independence or a merger with Pakistan. The conflict has left tens of thousands of civilians, soldiers and fighters dead.
India blames Pakistan for backing the fighters, a charge Islamabad denies, saying it only supports a Kashmiri struggle for the right to self-determination.
One of the two slain fighters was identified as a “highly ranked” separatist leader, the army officer said, claiming that the fighter was a Pakistani national who had been active in the area for the past year.
Last week, Indian soldiers martyred eight freedom fighters in the Kashmir valley, the epicentre of insurgency.
IIOJK has simmered in anger since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government annulled its limited constitutional autonomy in 2019 and imposed direct rule.
Indian authorities say at least 118 people have been killed in the conflict this year, including 11 civilians, 27 security forces and 80 suspected freedom fighters.