At least five people, including a six-year-old boy caught in the crossfire, have been killed in Indian-administered Kashmir.
The child was in a car that drove into a gun battle between suspected rebels and paramilitaries near the town of Bijbehara, a police officer told AFP news agency on Friday.
“The boy and a soldier were injured during the exchange of fire and both later died in hospital,” said the officer, who asked not to be named.
Three rebels were also killed in a separate gunfight at Chewa, near the region’s main city of Srinagar, in a battle that lasted 20 hours, army spokesman Colonel Rajesh Kalia said.
This came after at least 11 fighters were killed by Indian security forces over a span of three days in separate incidents.
Since the nationwide coronavirus lockdown was imposed in late March, New Delhi has stepped up military operations against rebels in Kashmir, with at least 33 separatist fighters killed this month.
More than 100 fighters have been killed this year, according to police.
India and Pakistan claim the mountainous territory of Kashmir in full but administer separate portions of it. The two nuclear-armed neighbours have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir since gaining independence from British rule in 1947.
Rebel groups on the Indian side have fought for decades for the region’s independence or its merger with Pakistan.
India, which has 500,000 soldiers stationed in its section of Kashmir, accuses Pakistan of supporting the Kashmiri fighters, a charge Islamabad denies, calling them freedom fighters.
Tensions have soared between Pakistan and India since last August, when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government revoked a special status granted to the Muslim-majority region.
Since early May, China and Indian troops have been engaged in a standoff on their disputed border in Ladakh region, which was carved out of Kashmir last August.__Al Jazeera