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25 Killed in Kashmir Gun Battle

In Indian Kashmir, eight soldiers and 17 Islamic militants have been killed in a five-day gun battle with security forces. The Islamic militant group, the Lashkar-e-Taiba, has threatened more violence in the disputed region.

An Indian army spokesman says the battle erupted when soldiers launched an operation to flush out Islamic terrorists who had crossed from Pakistan into Kashmir's Kupwara District.

The Indian Army's Gurmit Singh says the militants were well trained and possessed sophisticated equipment, such as AK 47 rifles, pistols, and global-positioning systems.

"Primarily this is thick jungles. It is a difficult terrain," Singh noted. "Visibility in this area is very difficult. Even the indoctrination, kitting and the equipment with the militants, with the terrorists, was of high order."

The latest gun battle is Kashmir's biggest in recent months. Search operations are continuing in the area.

The army says the militants belonged to the Pakistan-based Laskhar-e-Taiba group, which has been blamed by Indian authorities for several terror attacks in the country.

The Laskhar-e-Taiba has claimed responsibility for the encounter. A spokesman says the group will continue to sacrifice for the freedom of Kashmir and that India should understand that the freedom struggle in the region continues.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan. The Lashkar-e-Taiba has been on the frontlines of a violent separatist insurgency, which erupted two decades ago to free the part under Indian rule. But violence has decreased considerably since India and Pakistan embarked on a peace process in 2004.

However, the Indian Army's Gurmit Singh says groups of militants continue to infiltrate into the region, particularly as warmer weather approaches.

"This period of the time of the year is when the snow is in the process of melting, and such infiltrations are expected. And, we were ready for this," Singh said.

Kashmir is India's only Muslim-majority region. Tens of thousands of troops are deployed in the scenic area, to fight Islamic insurgents.