Indian security forces personnel are on manoeuvres as a gunfight with militants has happened that killed 4 soldiers, in South Kashmir's Pulwama district, some 10 km away from the spot of recent suicide bombing, on February 18, 2019. (Photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images)

AT LEAST seven people, including two armed rebels, were killed on Monday (18) in an ongoing gun battle in India-administered Kashmir.

An army major was among the dead, according to the Indian army. Police said another soldier and a civilian were critically wounded.

The two suspected masterminds of the bomb attack killed in a clash on Monday were both Pakistani nationals and members of JeM, police said in a statement. One police source told Reuters one of the dead militants had been identified as Abdul Rashid Gazi, who went by the alias Kamran Bhai.

“The encounter is still in progress and the security forces are on the job,” police said.

The gun battle in Pinglan village of Pulwama district comes days after a suicide bomb attack on a paramilitary police convoy in Indian-controlled Kashmir last Thursday killed at least 40 men.

The Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) claimed responsibility for the attack. India accuses Pakistan for harbouring the group. Pakistan denies that.

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi has promised a strong response to the attack and says he has given the military a free hand to tackle cross-border militancy.

Mohammad Yunis, a journalist in Pulwama, said troops were searching the village and civilians trapped in houses were being evacuated.

On Sunday, police said Indian forces had detained 23 men suspected of links to the militants who carried out the Thursday bombing.

With tension mounting, Pakistan withdrew its envoy to India for consultations, a spokesman for Pakistan’s foreign ministry said on Twitter on Monday.

A curfew remained in force for a fourth day in Jammu city, in the Hindu-majority part of Kashmir, where mobs attacked and set fire to properties belonging to Kashmiri Muslims.

Thousands of residents in the city have either fled back to the Himalayan valley or have taken refuge in Muslim-majority areas.

Mobile internet has been shut down across the state to stop “rumours” from spreading.

Many small businesses and shops in markets across New Delhi were shut Monday to protest against Thursday’s attack.  Protesters in New Delhi on Sunday burned effigies of Pakistani and JeM leaders while attacks on Kashmiris were reported in different cities.

(AFP/ Reuters)