Car bomb targets Indian army vehicle in Kashmir, 2 killed

SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Two Indian soldiers were killed in a car bombing that targeted an armored vehicle in disputed Kashmir, officials said Tuesday. Two other Indian soldiers and three rebels died in separate clashes.

The car bomb late Monday struck the army vehicle as it passed through the southern Pulwama area and wounded more than a dozen soldiers and two civilians.

Two critically wounded soldiers died in a hospital early Tuesday, said Col. Rajesh Kalia, an Indian army spokesman. He said casualties were minimized because of the alertness of the patrol party.

None of the rebel groups fighting against Indian rule since 1989 immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

It came days after Pakistan reportedly shared information with India and the United States about a possible militant attack in the Pulwama area. The Indian Express newspaper on Sunday reported that the intelligence shared by Pakistan was about "a possible attack by militants using an improvised explosive device mounted on a vehicle."

In February, a Kashmiri militant targeted a paramilitary convoy with a car bomb and killed 40 Indian soldiers. It was the deadliest suicide car bombing against Indian soldiers in the region's history and brought India and Pakistan close to war.

Separately, two rebels and a soldier were killed and two other soldiers were wounded Tuesday in a gunfight in the southern Bijbehara area.

Police said the two slain militants, Sajad Ahmad Bhat and Tawseef Ahmad Bhat, were involved in the February bombing. The car used in the blast was owned by Sajad and he joined militant ranks few days after the blast, said Atul Goel, a senior police officer. He said Tawseef was his handler.

An army officer and a militant were killed and two other soldiers were injured in a fierce gunfight in southern Anantnag area on Monday.

Anti-India sentiment runs deep in Kashmir, a divided Himalayan territory claimed by both India and Pakistan.

Most Kashmiris support the rebels' demand that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country, while also participating in civilian street protests against Indian control.

About 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian crackdown.