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Two Indian soldiers killed as tensions soar in occupied Kashmir

SRINAGAR: Suspected militants killed an Indian army officer and a trooper during a manhunt in occupied Kashmir, where 22 people have died in spiralling violence in the past two weeks, officials said on Friday.

The soldiers were chasing militants in a forested area in southern Kashmir when a gun battle erupted late on Thursday, Colonel Devendar Anand said.

The manhunt in the Mendhar region had been intensified since five soldiers were killed nearby three days earlier.

Violence in the disputed and occupied territory has escalated since last week, when suspected militants mounted attacks that left seven civilians dead, including three from the minority Hindu and Sikh communities.

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Some members of the minority communities have since left the occupied Kashmir valley fearing they will be targeted, media reported.

Eight suspected militants have also been killed in battles and military raids in the past two weeks, police said.

More than 120 have been killed this year.

The family of one of the dead suspects has denied that the youth had any links to recent attacks, saying he was detained by soldiers and killed in a staged incident in custody.

Sources said on Friday the Indian forces were facing difficulties in retrieving the bodies of the two fallen army men from the dense forests of Poonch.

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They said it was a risky mission as the militants have gone into hiding deep inside the forest and have been firing at the security forces. The authorities have closed the Poonch-Jammu Highway as a safety measure.

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