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One civilian was killed in the fight between Indian troops and separatists Thursday in Indian-occupied Kashmir.
Indian troops and independence fighters clashed in Indian-occupied Kashmir Thursday and five people were killed including a civilian, officials said, the latest casualties in a new phase of violence in the 30-year conflict.
Tension in Muslim-majority Kashmir has been high since a Feb. 14 suicide bomb attack by the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) militant group killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary police.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave troops a "free hand" to respond to the attack, and near-daily searches in villages in Kashmir since then have often triggered violent confrontations, with civilians caught in the crossfire to the alarm of rights groups.
Modi's tough response to the bomb attack, which included an air strike against what India said was a militant camp in Pakistan, is believed to have given his party a boost in a general election that began April 11 and will end May 19.
Three Kashmiri along with a Pakistani commander and an Indian soldier were killed Thursday in the gun battle in Dalipora, a village in south Kashmir, according to Reuters and local media.
Villagers said a civilian, who they identified as Rayees Ahmad Dar, 32, was also killed after Indian soldiers had sent him to search a house where militants were believed to be hiding. Villagers in the area have complained before about the army using civilians as human shields in searches.
A police spokesman blamed Kashmiri fighters for Dar's death and denied India used him during a search.
After the clash, villagers threw rocks at Indian security forces who responded with teargas.
Also Thursday, police said seven people were arrested and a curfew imposed on a town in the region after a Muslim man transporting horses was shot dead, allegedly by a Hindu group wanting to protect the rights of cows, an animal considered sacred in their religion.
Witness Yasir Hussain told Reuters he was one of three men confronted overnight by the group on the outskirts of Bhaderwah.
"They alleged that we are cow smugglers, but I directed my torch towards the horses and told them that these are the horses," he said. "They then fired at us and we fled," said Hussain.
Kashmir is at the heart of decades of hostility between India and Pakistan. The nuclear-armed neighbors both claim it in full but rule it in part.
The rivals have fought three wars since their own independence, two of them over Kashmir, coming close to another after the February bomb attack.
Independence fighters, who India says are backed by Pakistan, have been fighting Indian security forces since 1989. Pakistan denies supporting the insurgents.