Five Indian soldiers killed in ambush in Kashmir near border with Pakistan

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Five Indian soldiers were killed in an ambush by suspected militants in a mountainous district near the border with Pakistan, a government official said, potentially raising tensions in the disputed region of Kashmir.

The soldiers belonged to one of the several foot patrols of the Indian army deployed in the ridge lines of the Pir Panjal Range, which criss-crosses the disputed India-Pakistan border.

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The patrol was involved in a counter-terrorism operation when the group was ambushed early this morning, a second senior official aware of the details said.

Both officials couldn’t be named as they are not authorized to speak to the media. The Indian army didn’t comment on the incident immediately.

The second official said patrols were increased after reports of a terrorist group moving through the area. The ambush shows that terror groups are crossing over to India, he added.

The Indian Army has long said that armed militants in small groups have tried to move across the disputed border from Pakistan into Jammu and Kashmir -- India’s only Muslim majority state, which has seen insurgency for the last three decades. Pakistan has denied helping any militant groups who emerge in Indian-administered side of Kashmir.

Since their independence from Britain in 1947, India and Pakistan have fought three wars and except for brief but rare periods of harmony constantly accused each other of trying destabilize the other. The countries share a 3,323 kilometers (2,064.8 miles) disputed border where their armies are deployed at rifle-range of each other.

India and Pakistan agreed in February to end cross-border firing and work towards a broad plan for peace. While the peace intiative didn’t move forward, the border has remained quiet with no incidents of firing.

News of the ambush comes as India shifted some of its focus and military resources from the border with Pakistan to holding its positions with China in the northern region of Ladakh where there have been several clashes last year. This tweak in strategy had prompted India to ease tensions with Pakistan and concentrate on pushing back against Beijing.

Read more: Indian police detain hundreds amid targeted killings of civilians in Kashmir

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