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Kashmir cross-border shelling leaves multiple Pakistani casualties

23 November 2016 14:38

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Pakistan says at least 11 civilians have been killed and a dozen more wounded in Indian shelling in the Pakistani-controlled parts of the disputed Kashmir region.

Officials said the attacks targeted a passenger bus and a residential structure in Kashmir’s Neelum Valley.

In the first attack, nine people died and another 11 were injured when an artillery shell hit their bus. The second shelling targeted a house in the Naykal area, killing two people and wounding six more. Pakistani authorities also said the Indian troops had fired at an ambulance which went to the area for evacuation.

Islamabad said its troops had returned fire on Indian soldiers. There was no immediate confirmation from New Delhi.

Tensions between the two sides have escalated in recent months, with incidents of cross-border firing turning into a new normal

On Tuesday, the Indian army claimed Pakistani forces had killed three soldiers near the so-called Line of Control, which separates Indian-controlled Kashmir from the Pakistani-administered side.

A day earlier, Pakistan’s military announced that Indian forces had shelled several villages across the de facto border, leaving multiple civilian casualties.

Back in September, pro-independence fighters attacked an Indian army base and killed 19 soldiers.

New Delhi blamed Islamabad, which strongly denied any involvement. Nevertheless, India responded with what it called strikes targeting terrorist elements inside Pakistan.

That caused a new streak of violence to flare up across the border.

Diplomatic tensions rose a month later, when India ordered a “suspected employee spy” of the Pakistani High Commission out of the country. In return, Islamabad expelled an Indian diplomat.

Meanwhile, two recent incidents have further fueled tensions between the two nuclear-armed rivals.

On Friday, a Pakistani army spokesperson announced that military forces had shot down an Indian “spy drone”. The drone had reportedly crossed 60 meters over the Line of Control into Pakistan. It was later captured by Pakistani troops.

The next day, the Pakistani Navy reported that it had prevented an Indian submarine from entering Pakistan’s waters. India reacted by calling the report “all blatant lies”.

India and Pakistan agreed to a ceasefire in Kashmir on November 26, 2003, and launched a peace process the following year. Since then, there have been on-and-off clashes. Both sides accuse each other of violating the ceasefire along their de facto border.

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since 1947. Both claim the region in full.

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