According to a government official, five Indian soldiers were killed in an ambush by suspected terrorists in a mountainous sector near the Pakistani border, potentially escalating tensions in the disputed territory of Kashmir.
The soldiers were part of one of several Indian army foot patrols stationed along the ridgelines of the Pir Panjal Range, which runs parallel to the disputed India-Pakistan boundary. According to a second senior official familiar with the events, the patrol was engaged in a counter-terrorism operation when ambushed early this morning.
Both officials were unable to be identified because they were not authorized to speak to the press. The Indian Army did not immediately respond to the event.
According to the second official, Patrols were heightened after rumors of a terrorist group passing through the area. He went on to say that the incident demonstrates that terrorist groups are moving into India.
The Indian Army has long claimed that small groups of armed terrorists have attempted to cross the disputed border from Pakistan into Jammu and Kashmir, India's only Muslim majority state, plagued by terrorism for the past three decades. Pakistan has denied assisting any militant organizations operating in the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir.
India and Pakistan have fought three wars since their independence from Britain in 1947. They have continuously accused each other of destabilizing the other, except for brief but unusual times of peace. Both forces are stationed within rifle range of each other along a 3,323-kilometer (2,064.8-mile) disputed boundary.
In February, India and Pakistan agreed to halt cross-border firing and work toward a comprehensive peace plan. Despite the failure of the peace initiative, the border has remained calm, with no incidences of gunfire.
The news of the ambush comes as India shifts its focus and military resources away from the Pakistani border and toward maintaining its positions with China in Ladakh, where there have been multiple confrontations in the past year. As a result of this shift in policy, India has de-escalated tensions with Pakistan while focusing on retaliating against Beijing.