SRINAGAR, INDIA: Five freedom fighters were shot dead by government forces on Thursday in Indian-held Kashmir, officials said, as the occupied territory reels from the deadliest upsurge in armed conflict this decade.
More than 200 separatists have been killed in violent clashes in occupied Kashmir so far this year, officials say.
In the latest skirmish, four gunmen were killed in central Budgam district in a firefight with Indian forces, said army spokesperson Colonel Rajesh Kalia.
A fifth suspect was killed in Sopore, an area northwest of the main city of Srinagar, he added.
So far this year 205 separatists have been killed, according to police officials and watchdogs - the highest number since 2010, when a bloody uprising over the death of three civilians saw hundreds killed in protests and armed clashes with Indian forces.
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Unrest has swelled since security forces shot dead a hugely popular commander, Burhan Wani, in July 2016 and the frequency of deadly encounters with government troops has escalated.
Wani's death provoked an outpouring of anger directed at government forces that left nearly 100 dead and thousands injured.
"The number of militant killings is higher this year because more youth joined their ranks after last year's summer protests," a top police officer said.
Civilians still often break curfew to rally whenever fighters are killed or holed up in firefights, hurling stones and chanting anti-India slogans.
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