Feb 13, 6:15 AM EST

2 Indian soldiers, 5 rebels killed in Kashmir fighting

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SRINAGAR, India (AP) -- Five suspected rebels and two soldiers were killed in a fierce gunbattle Saturday in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir, officials said.

Police and soldiers cordoned off a village in the northern Kupwara region after they got a tip that militants were hiding in the area, said army spokesman Col. Nitin Joshi.

The fighting erupted Friday evening and intermittent gunfire continued through the night.

An intense firefight resumed early Saturday in which two soldiers were killed and two others wounded, Joshi said. Police said the bodies of five militants were recovered.

The area where the fighting took place is close to the Line of Control dividing Kashmir between India and Pakistan. The Himalayan region is divided between the rivals, but both claim it in its entirety.

More than a dozen rebel groups have been fighting in Kashmir since an insurgency erupted in 1989.

The rebels are demanding independence for Kashmir from Hindu-majority India or its merger with Muslim-majority Pakistan. More than 68,000 people have been killed in the fighting and the ensuing crackdown by Indian forces.

India accuses Pakistan of arming and training the insurgents, a charge Islamabad denies.

India and Pakistan have fought two wars over control of Kashmir since they won independence from Britain in 1947.

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