The Hizb-ul-Mujahideen says its fighters targeted the army convoy in India-administered Kashmir's Shopian district triggering a gunfight that also resulted in the death of a local woman.

India has stationed over half-a-million soldiers in disputed Kashmir.
India has stationed over half-a-million soldiers in disputed Kashmir.

Three Indian soldiers were killed when rebels ambushed an army convoy in India-administered Kashmir, defence officials and witnesses said on Thursday. Rebels put the number at five.

The soldiers were returning from a search operation in the Shopian district early Thursday morning when rebels attacked their convoy, injuring six, at least three of whom later died.

"Our three soldiers have been martyred in the midnight ambush after they were coming back from a search operation," Indian army spokesperson Colonel Rajesh Kalia told TRT World.

The Hizb-ul-Mujahideen group, which is based in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, told local media that its fighters led the ambush, killing five Indian soldiers and wounding many others.

A woman identified by Indian police was also killed in the ensuing gun battle that lasted for an hour.

"She was hit by a stray bullet inside her house during the crossfire and succumbed to her injuries," a police statement read.

The woman's son said, "Around 2 am (2030 GMT), we woke up after hearing firing on the road."

Our mother was sleeping upstairs. The firing stopped after an hour and when we went upstairs, we found our mother dead - Relatives of the victim

Television footage showed grieving relatives; a red van with shattered windows and shards of glass on the front seat; pools of blood on the ground and bullet marks on the walls of buildings.

"Such incidents have only strengthened our resolve to continue relentless operations against Pakistan-sponsored anti-nationals in the Kashmir Valley," the Indian army said in a statement.

Activists accused Indian soldiers of ransacking properties of villagers after the gun battle.

Muslim-majority Kashmir remains divided between Pakistan and India since 1947 when the British vacated the sub-continent.

The nuclear rivals have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir and have yet to tackle the sovereignty of the region.

Since 1989, about a dozen rebel groups led by the United Jihad Council (UJC) have been fighting an asymmetric war against over half-a-million Indian soldiers stationed in the tiny Himalayan territory. The UJC is seeking to merge the territory with Pakistan or independence for the region.

Rights groups and unofficial estimates say nearly 100,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in the decades-long conflict.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies