An Indian army officer and a trooper were killed during a manhunt in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), where 22 people have died in spiralling violence in the past two weeks, officials said Friday.
The soldiers were chasing separatists in a forested area in southern Occupied Kashmir when a gun battle erupted late Thursday, Colonel Devendar Anand told AFP.
The hunt in the Mendhar region had intensified since five soldiers were killed nearby three days earlier.
Violence in the Muslim-majority occupied territory has escalated since last week, when armed men killed seven civilians, including three from the minority Hindu and Sikh communities.
Some members of the minority communities have since left the occupied valley, fearing they will be targeted, media reported, echoing scenes during another surge in violence in the 1990s when thousands of Hindus fled the region.
Eight suspected rebels have also been killed in battles and military raids in the past two weeks, police said. More than 120 have been killed this year.
The family of one of the dead suspects has denied that the youth had any links to recent attacks, saying he was detained by soldiers and killed in a staged incident in custody.
An armed rebellion erupted in IIOJK in 1989 and tens of thousands have been killed since. Pro-freedom groups and parties demand independence for the territory or its merger with Pakistan.
Tensions have also risen since the Hindu nationalist government ended the region's semi-autonomy and put it under direct central control in August 2019.
Pakistan denies India's repeated accusations that it supports the rebels.
On Saturday, the Human Rights Watch called for Indian security forces accused of abuses including harassment, torture and extrajudicial killings to be held accountable.
"Kashmiris are caught in unending violence from attacks by militants and abuses by government authorities and security forces," HRW's South Asia director Meenakshi Ganguly said in a statement.
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