SRINAGAR, India (Reuters) - An Indian army colonel was among four people killed in a gunbattle with militants in Jammu & Kashmir on Tuesday, police said, the highest ranking military officer to die in fighting in the disputed Himalayan region in more than a year.
The colonel was leading an operation against suspected separatist militants in a village in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district when he came under fire.
A policemen and two militants were also killed in the encounter, police superintendent Tahir Saleem said.
Tens of thousands of troops are deployed in the Indian side of Kashmir to put down the insurgency which began in 1989 and has weakened over the past several years.
The Muslim-majority region of Kashmir is also claimed by Muslim Pakistan.
India worries that militant groups based in Pakistan will turn their attention to Kashmir as foreign forces complete their withdrawal from Afghanistan.
This month alone, 10 militants have been killed in violence.
The officer killed on Tuesday was the previous day awarded a gallantry medal for his service in Kashmir.
Reporting by Fayaz Bukhari; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Robert Birsel