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Indian troops battle suspected rebels in Kashmir

SRINAGAR, India – A gunbattle erupted Saturday when Indian soldiers came under fire by suspected militants while patrolling a mountain village in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, police said.

The fighting left a suspected rebel dead and a civilian wounded, a police officer said on customary condition of anonymity. There was no independent confirmation of the report.

The troops launched a manhunt for more suspected rebels in the remote mountain village of Hushenpura and in nearby forests, the officer said. The area is about 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Srinagar, the main city in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

The gunbattle follows a recent escalation in border fighting between Indian and Pakistani troops. Both sides claim Kashmir in its entirety, with each administering a part of it.

India also accuses Pakistan of arming and training rebels who have been fighting in Indian-controlled Kashmir since 1989 for independence or a merger with Pakistan. An estimated 68,000 people have been killed in the conflict, though most resistance is now shown through street protests.

Pakistan denies giving any backing to the rebels beyond moral and diplomatic support.