6 rebels, Indian soldier killed in Kashmir fighting

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Six suspected militants and an army soldier were killed in a pair of gunbattles along the highly militarized de facto border that divides the disputed region of Kashmir between India and Pakistan, the Indian army said Thursday.

Three insurgents and a soldier died in fighting that erupted Thursday after the militants crossed from the Pakistani-controlled part of Kashmir into Indian-held portion in Nowgam sector, army spokesman Col. Rajesh Kalia said.

Kalia said three other rebels were killed Wednesday in Machil sector.

There was no independent confirmation of the incidents.

The two nuclear-armed rivals have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir and both claim the divided territory in its entirety.

India accuses Pakistan of arming and training the rebels, which Pakistan denies.

In Indian-controlled Kashmir, rebel groups have been fighting for either independence or a merger with Pakistan since 1989. Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the armed uprising and ensuing Indian military crackdown.

Rebel groups have largely been suppressed by Indian forces in recent years. However, public opposition to Indian rule remains deep and is now principally expressed through street protests marked by youths hurling stones at government forces.