Srinagar: Two soldiers and three suspected rebels were killed in an overnight gunbattle in India-held Kashmir, officials said on Sunday, in the latest bloodshed in the disputed Himalayan territory.

Hundreds of Indian soldiers and counter-insurgency forces surrounded Awneera, a village about 50 kilometres (32 miles) south of the main city of Srinagar, on Saturday evening following a tip-off about armed militants in the area.

A fierce firefight broke out in which suspected three militants and two soldiers were killed, army spokesman Colonel Rajesh Kalia said.

A police officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the militants were identified as locals.

As news of their death spread, hundreds of residents from neighbouring villages took to the streets in protest, throwing stones at soldiers and chanting slogans against Indian rule.

In a separate incident early on Sunday rebels fired at an army convoy in the northern are of Hajin and injured two police officers and a soldier, the same police officer said.

On Saturday a civilian and a soldier were killed in gunfire between Indian and Pakistan soldiers along the Line of Control (LoC), a heavily militarised de facto border splitting the territory between India-held Kashmir and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK).

At least 130 suspected militants and 39 soldiers have died in clashes so far this year, officials say.

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule in 1947. Both claim the territory in full.

Rebel groups have fought since 1989 in India-held Kashmir, and tens of thousands – mostly civilians – have been killed, while demanding independence or a merger of the territory with Pakistan.

-AFP

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