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India kills 15 Islamic militants

There has been a surge of violence in Kashmir over the last month.
There has been a surge of violence in Kashmir over the last month.

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• Timeline: Kashmir history
• In-depth: Where conflict rules
Kashmir and Jammu (India)

SRINAGAR, India -- The Indian army says it has killed 15 Islamic militants who tried to cross into Indian-controlled Kashmir from Pakistan.

The shootout began late Sunday in the Gurez sector of Baramulla district, north of Srinagar, Indian military officials said, and is still going on.

So far Indian police have recovered 15 bodies but the toll is expected to be much higher, Lt Col Mukhtar Singh told the Press Trust of India.

Indian officials told news agencies the group was trying to join separatist rebels who have been fighting Indian rule, and is one of the biggest bids to enter their territory in recent months.

The clash comes amid a surge of violence in the disputed state over the last month, even as the two neighbors embark on a series of tentative peace steps, including resuming a cross-border bus service and opening talks on air links.

More than a dozen guerrilla groups have been battling Indian rule in Kashmir almost since independence from Britain and the creation of Pakistan.

Indian officials estimate 38,000 people have been killed during the 11-year military insurgency and blame Pakistan for stoking the fires, a charge Islamabad denies.

India says Pakistan trains, arms and funds the militants and orders them to attack Indian military and civilian targets. Pakistan says it only extends moral support.

The two countries -- both of whom tested nuclear weapons in 1998 -- have fought two out of three wars over Kashmir since independence from Britain in 1947.

They went to the brink of war in 2002, after an attack on India's parliament building that New Delhi blamed on Islamic militant groups backed by Pakistan.

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