6-Year-OldIn Indian Kashmir

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A six-year-old boy caught in crossfire was among five people killed in Indian Kashmir on Friday, officials said, as security forces step up a clampdown in the disputed Himalayan region.

New Delhi has bolstered counter-insurgency efforts in the restive territory, with at least 33 separatist militants killed this month.

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.

“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 killed in a separate firefight at Chewa, near the region’s main city Srinagar, in a battle that lasted 20 hours, army spokesman Colonel Rajesh Kalia said.

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Armed clashes are frequent in Indian Kashmir but have increased in recent weeks.

Kashmir is claimed by both India and Pakistan and has been divided between the two nuclear-armed rivals since 1947.

Rebel groups have fought for decades for Kashmir’s independence or its merger with Pakistan.

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An insurgency launched three decades ago has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

India has 500,000 soldiers stationed in its section of Kashmir and accuses Pakistan of arming militant groups there.

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Tensions have mounted again in Kashmir since August last year when India revoked the region’s semi-autonomous status, detained local political leaders and imposed a months-long internet and mobile phone blackout.

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