SRINAGAR, India, Nov. 17 (UPI) -- An Indian army colonel was killed Tuesday during a firefight with militants in the Kupwara district of Indian-administered Kashmir.
Col. Santosh Mahadik, 37, was seriously injured when a search party he was leading through a forested area near the Line of Control came under fire. A police officer was also injured in the encounter, and Mahadik -- the commanding officer of the 41 Rashtriya Rifles, a husband and a father of two -- later succumbed to his injuries.
A joint force of Indian military and police began conducting sweeps of the area on Nov. 13 following reports of militant activity.
"The first confrontation began last week, following which militants went into hiding," Xinhua news agency quoted a police official as saying. "Today again the contact with militants was established and an exchange of fire took place."
Sources indicated a group of militants in late October infiltrated to the Indian side of the Jammu and Kashmir region, which is shared in administration with Pakistan, but became stuck there due to heavy snowfall. Soldiers reportedly discovered the body of a militant believed to have died from hypothermia.
The Hundistan Times reported the militants were suspected of belonging to Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistan-based terrorist group that was implicated in the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed more than 160 people.
On Aug. 11, Indian police and military forces said they killed two LeT militants during a firefight in the village of Ratanpora, 16 miles south of Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir state.
Early last month, Indian police said they killed two militants during a similar encounter in the region's Pulwama district. Authorities identified the slain gunmen as Pakistani nationals with militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad, or "Army of Mohammad," which is based out of Pakistan.