SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Rebels fighting against Indian rule ambushed a group of paramilitary soldiers in Kashmir on Monday, killing three of them, an official said, an escalation in fighting in the disputed Himalayan region in recent weeks despite a stringent lockdown to combat the coronavirus. A teenage boy was also killed in the attack.

Rebels attacked a patrol party in the northwestern Handwara area, said Gul Junaid Khan, a paramilitary official. He said the militants fled after carrying out the attack.

Khan said officials were ascertaining the identity of the teenager who died.

There was no independent confirmation of the circumstances leading to the boy’s death. No rebel group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

The attack comes a day after militants killed five Indian security personnel, including two army officers and a counterinsurgency police officer, in the Handwara area. Two militants were killed in that fighting.

India has stepped up its counterinsurgency operations across Kashmir in recent months amid the coronavirus lockdown. Militants fighting Indian rule have not ceased their attacks on government forces and alleged informants. Over two dozen militants and about a dozen Indian troops have been killed in April, the most in any month this year.


There has also been almost daily fighting over the last several months along the rugged and mountainous highly militarized frontier that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan.

On Friday, two Indian soldiers were killed in border skirmishes. On Wednesday, a Pakistani soldier and three civilians on both sides were killed in another bout of fighting.

India and Pakistan both claim the divided territory of Kashmir in its entirety. Most Kashmiris support the rebel goal of uniting the territory, either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country, while also participating in civilian street protests against Indian control.

India accuses Pakistan of arming and training the anti-India rebels. Pakistan denies this, saying it offers only moral and diplomatic support to the militants and to Kashmiris who oppose Indian rule.

Rebels have been fighting Indian rule since 1989. About 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.