Pakistan’s military says two of its soldiers have been killed in an exchange of fire with Indian forces near the Line of Control that separates the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir between the rivals.
It marked the first fatalities for Pakistani troops since Wednesday, when tensions dramatically escalated between the nuclear-armed neighbors over Kashmir, which is split between them but claimed by both in its entirety.
Pakistan’s army said in a statement Saturday that the soldiers were killed in the Nakiyal region of Kashmir in the past 24 hours. It said there were reports of troop casualties on the Indian side.
Since overnight Friday, a total of at least six civilians have been killed on both sides of Kashmir.
Tensions between India and Pakistan have been running high since Indian aircraft launched a strike in Pakistan on Tuesday in response to a Feb. 14 suicide bombing in Indian-controlled Kashmir that killed 40 troops.
Indian police say two paramilitary soldiers and two counterinsurgency police officials have been killed in a gunbattle with militants in Indian-controlled Kashmir, while troops fatally shot a civilian during anti-India protests.
Police said Saturday that the fighting began Thursday night in a forested area in the northwestern Handwara area after Indian troops surrounded the area on a tip that militants were hiding there.
Since then, fighting has been on and off. In addition to the fatalities, at least eight soldiers and police have been wounded.
Police said a young man was killed Friday when government forces fired at anti-India protesters who threw stones while trying to reach the site of the fighting. Several people were also injured in the clashes.
The fighting comes amid tensions between India and Pakistan that have been running high since Indian aircraft launched a strike in Pakistan on Tuesday in response to a Feb. 14 suicide bombing in Indian-controlled Kashmir that killed 40 troops.
Pakistan’s military says Indian troops have fired across the Line of Control into the Pakistan-controlled portion of the disputed region of Kashmir, killing two civilians and wounding two others.
The casualties Saturday bring to six the number of people killed on both sides of Kashmir since overnight Friday.
Pakistan’s military said in a statement that its troops “gave a befitting response by targeting Indian posts.”
The Indian army said Pakistani soldiers attacked Indian posts at several places along the militarized line later Saturday.
The latest exchange of fire between the nuclear-armed rivals came a day after Pakistan released an Indian pilot to defuse tensions. Pakistan arrested the pilot this past week after shooting down two Indian planes in Kashmir, which is split between the countries but claimed in its entirety by both.
Tensions have been running high since Indian aircraft launched a strike in Pakistan on Tuesday in response to a Feb. 14 suicide bombing in Indian-controlled Kashmir that killed 40 troops.
Hundreds of people who were forced to flee border villagers this week amid a dramatic escalation of hostilities between Pakistan and India have urged the international community to play its role in resolving the issue of Kashmir so that they can live peacefully.
Mohammad Latif, a laborer who is taking refuge at a government building vacated for sheltering displaced families, says, “Whenever India fire mortars, it’s we who suffer.”
Parveez Kazmi, a woman whose married daughter lives in Indian Kashmir, was weeping on a road in Muzafarabad city. She cannot travel to Indian-controlled Kashmir because of recent suspension of a key bus service by New Delhi.
She says people living on both sides of Kashmir often miss funerals and weddings of their dear ones because of tension between Pakistan and India.
On Saturday, people in Pakistan’s part of Kashmir continued fleeing border villages for safety amid a resumption of deadly shelling.
A Pakistani government official says Indian troops with heavy weapons have “indiscriminately targeted border villagers” along the two countries’ Line of Control in the Himalayan region of Kashmir, killing a boy and wounding three others.
The official, Umar Azam, said Saturday that Pakistani troops are “befittingly” responding to the Indian fire.
He says several homes were destroyed in Pakistan’s part of Kashmir, which is split between them and claimed by both in its entirety. India said earlier that Pakistani fire killed two siblings and their mother on its side.
Pakistan and India have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir since their independence from British rule in 1947.
Saturday’s exchange of fire came a day after Pakistan handed over a captured Indian air force pilot to India as a “gesture of peace” to defuse tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbors over the disputed Kashmir region.
Officials say two siblings and their mother have been killed in cross-border shelling between Indian and Pakistani soldiers in disputed Kashmir.
Indian police say the three died overnight after a shell fired by Pakistani soldiers hit their home in Poonch region near the so-called Line of Control that divides the Himalayan territory of Kashmir between the two nuclear-armed rivals.
Indian army says its soldiers responded.
Tensions have been running high since Indian aircraft crossed into Pakistan on Tuesday, carrying out what India called a pre-emptive strike against militants blamed for a Feb. 14 suicide bombing in Indian-controlled Kashmir that killed 40 Indian troops.
Pakistan retaliated, shooting down a MiG-21 fighter jet Wednesday and its pilot, who was returned to India on Friday in a peace gesture.