Nov 27, 11:09 AM EST

10 dead in Kashmir gunbattle between rebels, army

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AP Photo/Channi Anand
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SRINAGAR, India (AP) -- Heavily armed militants fought a fierce gunbattle with soldiers in the Indian-held portion of Kashmir on Thursday, and four civilians were among the 10 dead, authorities said.

The nine-hour exchange of firing stopped as night fell, but some militants were still believed to be holed up in an abandoned bunker in the Arnia sector of Jammu region, an officer said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters.

The army rushed reinforcements and cordoned off the area, about 330 kilometers (205 miles) south of Srinagar, the main city in the region, to prevent the rebels from escaping.

The army rolled out at least three tanks in a show of force and to demolish some abandoned bunkers which it feared could be used by the insurgents, the officer said.

The dead included three Indian soldiers and three suspected insurgents. Two other Indian soldiers were wounded, he said. Four civilians in an Indian border village died of bullet wounds, said Rajesh Kumar, a state police officer.

Shantmanu, a state government official who uses one name, said civilians in the village were evacuated and schools were closed for the day.

Arnia is the sector where Indian and Pakistani troops exchanged shelling and firing in late September and October, killing 20 people and wounding more than 100. The clashes were the most serious violation of a 2003 cease-fire agreement.

The army officer said the attackers in Thursday's fighting crossed over from Pakistani territory, but there was no independent confirmation of that.

Rebel groups have been fighting Indian rule in the region since 1989. More than 68,000 people have been killed in the fighting and in a subsequent Indian military crackdown.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan. They have fought three wars, two of them over control of Kashmir, since they won independence from British colonial rule in 1947.

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