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SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Three suspected rebels and a 45-year-old woman were killed Thursday during a gunbattle between government forces and anti-India rebels in the main city of disputed Kashmir, officials said.

The gunfight erupted shortly after scores of counterinsurgency police and soldiers launched an operation based on a tip about the presence of militants in a Srinagar neighborhood, Pankaj Singh, an Indian paramilitary spokesman, said.

Singh said the fighting left three militants dead and a paramilitary officer wounded. He said a local woman also was killed in the exchange of gunfire. There were no other details immediately available about the civilian’s killing.

As the fighting raged, many residents marched near the site in solidarity with the rebels and chanted slogans seeking an end to Indian rule over the region. Government forces fired shotgun pellets and tear gas at the stone-throwing protesters.

No casualties were immediately reported in the clashes.

India and Pakistan claim the divided territory of Kashmir in its entirety. Most Muslim Kashmiris support the rebel cause that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.

Armed rebels have fought Indian rule since 1989, which New Delhi calls Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. Pakistan denies the charge, and most Kashmiris call it a legitimate freedom struggle.

Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces have been killed in the conflict.

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Guard troops won’t have to repay bonuses

California National Guard troops will not have to repay enlistment bonuses they received a decade ago when they signed up to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan.

House and Senate negotiators have decided not to require the repayment. The House is expected to vote on the issue as part of the annual defense policy bill by Friday, followed by a Senate vote next week.

The Pentagon began demanding the repayments after an audit revealed the Guard had overpaid enlistees under pressure to meet enlistment goals between 2004 and 2010.

Members of the California congressional delegation and veterans leaders had expressed outrage over the repayment demand.

“The men and women who bravely served or are still serving this country in our armed forces should not be forced to repay anything they received in good faith and earned through their blood, sweat and sacrifice,” said Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, when he introduced H.R. 6316, the ‘Veterans Earned Their Bonuses Act’ earlier this month. “To hold them liable for a contract that was presented by an agent of the U.S. Army, as much as a decade later, is unjust.”

Under provisions in the bill, any member of the U.S. armed forces would be covered. Defense Department officials would have to prove service member were not eligible for a bonus or another type of special pay in order to force repayment.

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