Renewed fighting in Kashmir kills 6 as Pakistan, India exchange fire
Indian and Pakistani forces have again exchanged fire along Kashmir’s Line of Control (LoC), with reports saying six people have been killed on the two sides of the border.
The director general of Pakistan’s military operations, Maj. Gen. Sahir Shamshad Mirza, said Monday that Indian forces had attacked a Pakistani military vehicle traveling along the LoC, the de facto border that separates the two parts of Kashmir between the nuclear-armed neighbors. Shamshad Mirza said that four soldiers were killed in the attack.
Indian authorities denied the report, saying forces deployed in the Rajouri sector of Indian-administered Kashmir had returned fire after Pakistani troops fired mortar shells and automatic weapons into the area.
Indian army spokesman Lt. Col. Manish Mehta said a soldier died at a hospital after being wounded in the attack. The official condemned Pakistan’s shelling as an unprovoked violation of a 2003 ceasefire.
Indian police officials said an 8-year-old girl was killed when a shell fired by the Pakistani army landed on her house in Poonch area, near Rajouri. Senior police officer S.P. Vaid said the girl’s mother was also injured in the attack. Two other civilians, one on the Indian side and one on the Pakistani-controlled part of Kashmir, were also wounded in the violence on Monday.
Indian officials say Pakistan’s repeated attacks on their side of the Himalayan region have affected at least 5,000 civilians. Local civil administrator Shahid Iqbal said Monday that at least 120 students were evacuated from one school in armored vehicles after shells landed in Poonch area. He said all schools have been closed in the area.
India and Pakistan have seen a surge in fighting along the LoC over the past months. The two countries have repeatedly accused each other of violating the 2003 truce.
The cross-border clashes intensified following a spike in protests in Kashmir last year, which came after a senior militant commander was killed in the area.
People in the Muslim-majority region have for years demanded independence or a merger with Pakistan.
India has ignored the call and continues to police the region with a 500,000-strong military force. It also accuses Pakistan of supporting the militants in Kashmir, a charge denied by Islamabad. About 70,000 people have been killed in Kashmir’s violence since 1989.
The violence on Monday came a day after Pakistan said four of its soldiers had been killed in firing from across the LoC. Indian officials denied any knowledge of the incident, which again involved Pakistani troops patrolling along the border in a military vehicle.