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Bomb blast kills four police officers in Indian Kashmir

Four police officers were killed Saturday in a explosion in Indian Kashmir suspected to have been set off by Islamist militants, police and reports said, marking a deadly start to the new year in the restive valley.

They were on patrol when the improvised explosive device exploded in Sopore, around 50 km (30 miles) from the main city of Srinagar.

“IED blast in Sopore. Four policemen martyred,” Jammu and Kashmir police tweeted.

The bomb was planted near a shop amid a strike called by separatists, the Press Trust of India and other local media said.

The incident comes during a spike in violence in the disputed region which is claimed by both India and Pakistan.

Last week four Indian soldiers were killed in an attack by armed militants who stormed a paramilitary camp outside Srinagar.

Kashmir was divided between India and Pakistan at the end of British colonial rule over the subcontinent in 1947.

Since 1989, rebel groups have been fighting roughly half a million Indian soldiers deployed in the territory, seeking independence for the former Himalayan kingdom or its merger with neighbouring Pakistan.

The fighting has left tens of thousands, mostly civilians, dead.

Last year 206 suspected militants, 57 civilians and 78 Indian security forces personnel were killed, making it the deadliest year in a decade.

India accuses Pakistan of sending militants across the disputed border in Kashmir to launch attacks on Indian forces.

Pakistan denies the allegations, saying it only provides moral and diplomatic support to the Kashmiri struggle for the right to self-determination.

With reporting from AFP

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