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Five dead in strife-torn IHK

SRINAGAR: A police officer and four militants were killed in separate incidents Sunday in India-held Kashmir as hundreds of residents clashed with security forces in the region hit by weeks of deadly unrest.

Indian soldiers shot and killed four militants as they tried to cross the heavily militarised border that divides the disputed Himalayan region between India and Pakistan, an army official claimed.

“They tried to infiltrate into Nowgam sector and were intercepted. Four militants were killed and their AK rifles were recovered,” army spokesman NN Joshi claimed, referring to the area northwest of the main city of Srinagar.

An unknown number of militants later killed a police officer in Poonch sector south of Srinagar, an officer in the area’s police control room told AFP.

Security forces were called in to hunt down the militants, sparking a fierce and ongoing gunbattle, the unnamed officer said, without giving more details.

The encounters with militants came as stone-pelting residents protesting against Indian rule of the region clashed with troops in Pulwana and two other places in the southern Kashmir Valley, leaving scores injured, police officers said.

A curfew has been lifted from much of the region since protests broke out over the death on July 8 of a popular young rebel leader in a gunbattle with security forces. But the unrest shows few signs of abating, with residents continuing to take to the streets, while schools and most businesses remain closed, hitting the region’s economy hard.

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the two gained independence from British rule in 1947. Both claim the territory in full.

Several rebel groups have for decades fought Indian soldiers — currently numbering around 500,000 — deployed in the territory.

They demand independence for the region or its merger with rival Pakistan. Tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, have died in the fighting.

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