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Kashmir Avalanche Buries India Army Soldiers

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At least 17 Indian Army personnel were killed when an avalanche hit a training sub camp in the mountains of Kashmir.  About a dozen injured soldiers have been rescued.

The avalanche swept over the soldiers at an advance camp of the Army's High Altitude Warfare Training School at Khilanmarg, at an altitude of more than 2,700 meters.

A combined rescue team composed of military personnel, police and tourism officials, working in fog and snowfall more than two meters deep, took several hours to recover the bodies of those killed.

The senior superintendent of police in the city of Baramulla, Shakeel Baig, says 12 of the soldiers who were rescued required medical treatment, but he says their injuries are not life-threatening.

"They are out of danger.  The rescue operation is still going on," he said.

Authorities say an avalanche warning had been issued after several days of heavy snowfall.

The avalanche occurred above the ski resort town of Gulmarg, 50 kilometers northwest of Srinagar in the heavily-militarized Indian-administered section Kashmir.  Officials in Gulmarg say no tourists were injured as the avalanche hit at an altitude above the skiing area.

The High Altitude Warfare School is the Indian Army's primary institute for such training and was set up more than 60 years ago initially to teach skiing to front-line infantry troops.  

Avalanches occur frequently in the region, which is claimed in its entirety by both India and Pakistan.

The dispute over Kashmir has triggered two wars between the rivals since they gained independence in 1947 from Britain.  Hundreds of thousands of soldiers are stationed along both sides of the Line of Control.

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