The fighting, which could not be independently verified, comes amid an ongoing lockdown in India-administered Kashmir to combat spread of coronavirus.

Indian army soldiers stand guard as their colleague shops during a lockdown in Srinagar, India-administered Kashmir on March 31, 2020.
Indian army soldiers stand guard as their colleague shops during a lockdown in Srinagar, India-administered Kashmir on March 31, 2020. (AP)

Nine suspected rebels and three Indian soldiers were killed in a pair of gun battles in disputed Kashmir, according to an Indian army official.

Indian soldiers killed five suspected rebel fighters along the highly militarised de facto front line in Keran sector on Sunday after an armed group of militants infiltrated from the Pakistan-administered Kashmir into the Indian-controlled part, said Colonel Rajesh Kalia, an Indian army spokesman.

Kalia said three soldiers were also killed. 

He did not specify the number of injured, saying only that some others who were injured were undergoing treatment.

There was no independent confirmation of the incident.

Four rebels killed in Kulgam

The other gun battle broke out in a neighbourhood in southern Kulgam town as police and soldiers scoured the area looking for rebels on Saturday, Kalia said. 

He said that as troops began conducting searches, they came under heavy gunfire, leading to a clash that killed four militants.

The fighting comes amid an ongoing lockdown in Kashmir to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

Decades-long dispute 

Nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan each administer part of Kashmir, but both claim the Himalayan territory in its entirety.

Rebel groups have been fighting since 1989 for Kashmir’s independence or a merger with neighbouring Pakistan. India accuses Pakistan of arming and training the rebels, which Pakistan denies and says it only provides moral support to Kashmiris' right to self-determination.

Anti-India sentiment runs deep among the region's mostly Muslim population and most people support the rebels' cause against Indian rule despite a decades-long military crackdown to fight the armed rebellion.

Nearly 100,000 people have been killed in the fighting and the ensuing Indian crackdown.

Source: AP