5 suspected rebels, 2 Indian soldiers die in Kashmir clashes

SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Five suspected rebels and two Indian soldiers were killed in two separate clashes this week near the heavily militarized line of control that divides the disputed mountain region of Kashmir between India and Pakistan, the Indian army said Thursday.

Four militants who had crossed into the Indian-controlled side from the Pakistani side were killed in fierce fighting Thursday that also left one soldier dead in the Tangdhar sector, army spokesman Col. Nitin N. Joshi said.

Another clash Wednesday in the Machil area of Kashmir left another militant and soldier dead and four other soldiers wounded, he said.

There was no independent confirmation of the two incidents.

The rebels, who have been fighting against Indian rule since 1989 with wide support from the mostly Muslim population, are demanding that Kashmir be given independence or become part of neighboring Pakistan.

More than 68,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the subsequent Indian military crackdown.

Both India and Pakistan claim the Himalayan region in its entirety. The two nuclear-armed countries have fought three wars, two of them over control of Kashmir, since winning independence in 1947.

India accuses Pakistan of training and arming the rebels, a charge Islamabad denies.