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2 Indian air force commandos, 2 rebels killed in Kashmir

Posted October 11

— Two Indian air force commandos and two rebels were killed on Wednesday in a fierce gunbattle in the disputed region of Kashmir, officials said.

Soldiers began an anti-militant operation by cordoning off northern Hajin town on a tip that rebels were hiding in the area, said Col. Rajesh Kalia, an Indian army spokesman. He said the deaths occurred in the ensuing intense fighting.

Street clashes erupted in Hajin shortly after the fighting ended as hundreds of residents demanded an end to Indian rule in Kashmir. Government forces fired tear gas and shotgun pellets to quell the rock-throwing protesters.

Protesters later marched in the town carrying the body of one of the dead militants. They chanted anti-India and pro-rebel slogans while women sang dirges.

Nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan each administer part of Kashmir, but both claim the Himalayan territory in its entirety. Rebel groups demand that Kashmir be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.

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

Anti-India sentiment runs deep in Kashmir's mostly Muslim population and most people support the rebels' cause.

Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.

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