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Kashmir clashes leave 10 people dead

Groups fighting to end Indian rule step up attacks on Indian government forces patrolling the divided region.

Clashes in Indian-administered Kashmir have killed 10 people - five police officers, a soldier, two civilians and two suspected separatist fighters, according to Indian authorities.

Suspected separatist ambushed a police patrol in the town of Achhabal, killing five police personnel, a police officer told AFP news agency on Friday.

Armed groups active in divided Kashmir have stepped up attacks in recent weeks on Indian government forces patrolling the area as part of "counterinsurgency" operations.

Earlier, soldiers and a police special counterinsurgency force cordoned off Arwani village on a tip-off that armed men were hiding in two homes, setting off a firefight, the officer said.

Two civilians, including a teenage boy, were killed when security forces fired at hundreds of villagers who marched to the site of the attack to help the fighters escape, the police officer said.

Two suspected separatists were also killed, the officer said.

The unrest spread to neighbouring villages as thousands of residents clashed with government forces, hurling stones and chanting: "We want freedom" and "Go India, go back".

Separately on Friday, an Indian army spokesman said a soldier was killed when Pakistani forces fired at Indian posts in southern Naushera along the Line of Control (LoC) that divides Kashmir between the two countries.

The two armies have traded heavy fire along the de facto border almost daily in recent weeks, killing civilians and soldiers on both sides while accusing each other of breaching a 2003 ceasefire agreement.

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule in 1947, but both claim the Himalayan territory in full.

India maintains roughly 500,000 soldiers in the territory and blames Pakistan for fomenting unrest.

Pakistan denies the allegation, saying it only provides diplomatic support to the Kashmiri struggle for the right of self-determination.

Officials say dozens of youth have joined the separatist ranks since last July after a popular commander was killed by security forces, sparking months of wide-scale protests in the territory.


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