Srinagar (India) (AFP) - At least four soldiers died Monday in a fierce gunfight with rebels in Indian-administered Kashmir just four days after a suicide bomber killed 41 paramilitaries in the troubled territory, officials said.
One soldier and one civilian were also critically wounded in the shootout as troops launched a search operation in Pulwama district where the suicide bomber struck on Thursday.
"Four soldiers were killed during the shootout and another one is injured," a senior police officer told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The official said the soldiers fired warning shots and the militants fired back, unleashing the firefight in the district 40 kilometres (25 miles) south of the main city of Srinagar.
The official added that the rebels were believed to have escaped.
Government forces have launched a massive hunt for militants in parts of the disputed region since Thursday's bombing that India has blamed on Pakistan.
An explosives-packed van rammed a convoy transporting 2,500 security forces in the deadliest attack in Kashmir in 30 years.
Kashmir has been split between India and Pakistan since independence from Britain in 1947. Both countries, which have fought two wars over the territory, claim all of Kashmir.
Tens of thousands of people, mainly civilians, have died in Kashmir since an armed rebellion broke out in 1989.