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Indian soldiers adapting to mountain fight

DRAS, India (AP) -- Private Keshav Singh had just scaled down an icy slope, having fought there for two weeks between taking breaks to snatch some sleep and eat rice and lentils ferried on mules.

Far from his home in the scorching northern Indian plains, the 20-year-old soldier appeared to be quickly adapting to fighting in the knee-deep snow of the Himalayan territory, the theater of the latest fighting between hostile neighbors India and Pakistan."No problems, ma'am," he said Tuesday when asked how he felt as he prepared to leave for another icy position. "We have encircled the enemy and are closing in."

Hundreds of Muslim guerrillas have infiltrated a part of India-held Kashmir where few people live and only the most die-hard trekkers venture.

Singh, clad in high-altitude fighting gear and snow boots, is among the hundreds of Indian soldiers dispatched to regain control of the 15,000-feet high Tololing peak near Kargil.

On Tuesday, 46 soldiers had died, 174 were wounded and 12 were missing since early last month, when the army began fighting hundreds of infiltrators occupying the snow-covered peaks. India said it had killed 400 raiders, but only a few bodies had been recovered and the figure could not be confirmed.

In some places, Indian soldiers were within 33 feet of guerrilla positions, military commanders said.

India has claimed the area occupied by militants was shrinking, although the rebels are heavily armed with machine-guns, rockets and U.S.-built Stinger anti-aircraft missiles. Their positions dominate the highway that is the lifeline for civilians along the border and the military link to the Chinese border.