Suspected Islamic guerrillas attacked two police vehicles in Jammu and Kashmir state in northern India on Friday, killing 17 policemen and injuring six others, officials said.
Police and soldiers reached Manjakot village, about 150 miles northwest of Jammu, several hours after the attack and found the bullet-riddled bodies of a dozen policemen in a forest. Five others died of gunshot wounds at a hospital in Jammu, the state's winter capital.
Officials said the police team, riding in a jeep and a minibus, had gone to Manjakot to investigate reports that two civilians had been killed by militants Thursday. The policemen were attacked as they exited their vehicles, and a fierce gun battle went on for nearly two hours, an official said on condition of anonymity.
It was not known if any militants died in the shootout.
India and Pakistan have fought two wars over control of Kashmir since they won independence from Britain in 1947. Both countries claim the Himalayan territory in its entirety.
Jammu and Kashmir state's top elected official, Farooq Abdullah, condemned the massacre of the police, calling it yet another attempt to sabotage peace overtures made by Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.