SRINAGAR - The Indian army claimed killing seven freedom fighters on Monday in a gunbattle in occupied Kashmir near the de facto border with Pakistan.
An Indian army spokesman said the seven were killed after heavy firing broke out between military forces and the fighters at Dardpora, a village 120 kilometres (75 miles) northwest of the Kashmiri summer capital Srinagar.  Spokesman Nitin Narhar Joshi told AFP: “The army patrol came under fire from militants. The troops retaliated. In the ensuing battle, seven militants have been killed so far.”
About a dozen armed groups have been fighting Indian forces since 1989 for Kashmir’s independence or for its merger with Pakistan.
The fighting has left tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, dead. Last December, Indian government forces killed three suspected freedom fighters in a similar gunbattle in Kashmir , which also injured four police officers. India regularly accuses Pakistan’s army of providing covering fire for the freedom fighters who infiltrate across the border and then mount attacks in the Indian sector of Kashmir .
The Muslim-majority region is divided and administered separately by India and Pakistan but claimed in full by both. The two countries have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947, two of them over Kashmir .