SRINAGAR, India (Reuters) - Indian troops fought two groups of suspected militants along the disputed frontier with Pakistan in Kashmir on Tuesday, killing at least eight, army officials said, in a significant flare-up in violence two days after a major attack on an Indian base.
One Indian soldier was killed during a gunfight against men trying to cross the Line of Control (LOC), the de facto border where thousands of Indian and Pakistani troops face off against each other, army spokesman Manish Kumar said.
“The army foiled an infiltration bid in the Nowgam sector along the LOC in north Kashmir. One soldier was killed and the operation is going on,” he said.
Indian security forces also spotted 10-12 suspected militants in the border area of Uri, Kumar said. A senior army officer told Reuters security forces had killed between eight and ten members of the group and had set out to retrieve the bodies.
India blamed Pakistan for Sunday’s assault on army brigade headquarters in Uri in which four commando-style gunmen killed 18 Indian soldiers, sharply raising tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbors.
Pakistan denies any role in the raid, one of the deadliest in the divided Himalayan region over which India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars.
Indian television channels reported on Tuesday that India and Pakistan had exchanged fire across the heavily militarized frontier, but Pakistani Foreign Office spokesman Nafees Zakaria said no shot had been fired by Pakistan.
In Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, a Pakistani colonel said there was no firing along the border. Both sides were on high alert and strengthening their positions, he said.
Senior politicians in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government have warned that action will be taken against Pakistan after Sunday’s assault, but India’s options to hit back appear limited given the risk of escalation.
Pakistan accuses New Delhi of using the attack to deflect attention from unrest in India’s only Muslim-majority state.
More than 80 civilians have been killed in protests, spearheaded by locals, that erupted after Indian security forces killed a popular Kashmiri militant leader in July.
India has been fighting a simmering insurgency against its rule in Kashmir for 27 years and accuses Pakistan of a hand in the unrest and of training and supporting fighters who smuggle themselves across the frontier.
Before Tuesday’s violence, India said it had this year killed 31 suspected militants trying to breach the Kashmir border and foiled 17 infiltration attempts. The number of attempts has fallen sharply over the last decade.
Pakistan denies backing militants and says it only gives moral and diplomatic support to the Kashmiri people in their struggle for self-determination.
Reporting by Fayaz Bukhari in SRINAGAR, Mehreen Zahra-Malik in ISLAMABAD and Arqam Naqash in MUZAFFARABAD; Writing by Tommy Wilkes; Editing by Janet Lawrence