A rebel attack on an army camp in Indian Kashmir killed three soldiers and two police on Friday, an official said, as the tense Muslim-majority state votes in local elections.
Two of the assailants also died in what the official described as a suicide attack on the army camp in Uri, near the Line of Control (LoC) that divides the disputed Himalayan region.
The attack occurred ahead of a visit Monday by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to visit Kashmir, where thousands of extra paramilitary troops have been deployed for month-long local polls.
“Three soldiers, two policemen and two militants died in the firing incident near the army’s field artillery unit,” a police officer told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Another rebel is believed to be still inside the army unit and one wounded police officer has been airlifted to an army hospital in the regional capital Srinagar, he said.
N.N. Joshi, the army spokesman in Srinagar said only that “the operation is on”, without giving any details.
Uri is around 100 kilometres (60 miles) northwest of Srinagar, where Modi is due to campaign on Monday.
The prime minister’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is staging a bold attempt to seize control of the Jammu and Kashmir legislature, a move unthinkable until very recently.
The Hindu nationalist party has traditionally had no base in the Kashmir Valley, where residents’ resentment against Indian rule runs high.
Turnout was high for the first phase of voting on November 25, when more than 70 percent of the electorate cast their ballots in 15 constituencies.
The state of Jammu and Kashmir will vote in five phases, with results due on December 23.
About a dozen rebel groups have been fighting Indian forces since 1989 for independence or to merge the territory with Pakistan. The fighting has left tens of thousands dead, mostly civilians.
Most separatist leaders opposed to Indian rule were either arrested or confined to their houses after elections were announced. Many had called on people to boycott the polls. SAPA