By Fayaz Bukhari
SRINAGAR, India (Reuters) - Militants killed eight Indian police officials and injured 20 when they attacked a security convoy in northern Jammu & Kashmir state on Saturday, a police spokesman said, in an attack claimed by Islamist group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
Two men attacked a convoy of India's Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) on a highway near the Pampore town, 15 kilometers (9 miles) from the state capital Srinagar. The militants were killed by CRPF officials who were guarding the highway, police spokesman Bhavesh Kumar Choudhary said.
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Dr. Abdullah Gaznavi, a spokesman for LeT, told Reuters by phone that the attack was carried out by members of the group's suicide squad. Gaznavi claimed 13 CRPF police officials were killed in the fighting that lasted for an hour.
Violence in Kashmir has spiked against a backdrop of rising social tension and separatist sentiment in the Muslim-majority region, which for decades has been at the center of a strategic tussle between India and Pakistan.
In May, militants shot dead three Indian policemen at point-blank range. In February, militants attacked a bus carrying police reservists near Srinagar, before breaking into a training institute.
India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars since independence in 1947 over Kashmir, which they both claim in full but rule in part.
India accuses Pakistan of training and arming the rebels in the portion it controls and sending them to the Indian side, a claim its neighbor denies.
Mehbooba Mufti, state chief minister, condemned Saturday's attack. "The only purpose of such blood-spattered acts of violence is to add to the tragedies and miseries of the people," she said in a statement.
(Writing by Aditya Kalra, Editing by Rafael Nam and Digby Lidstone)