India and Pakistan blamed one another for cross-border shelling in the disputed Kashmir region which killed and injured soldiers and civilians on both sides and made it one of the deadliest days since New Delhi revoked Kashmir’s special status in August.
Officials from the two countries accused each other’s militaries of firing across the de facto border, known as the Line of Control (LoC), as the death toll in the latest round of firing rose to at least 10, according to an AFP news agency tally.
India said there was heavy shelling by Pakistan across the border in northern Kashmir’s Tangdhar region late on Saturday night, killing two Indian soldiers and one civilian.
General Bipin Rawat, India’s army chief, told reporters in New Delhi that his troops used larger-round artillery fire to hit “terrorist camps” across the border.
But Islamabad accused the Indian army of targeting civilians, with the foreign affairs ministry saying six were killed, while several others – including women and children – were seriously hurt in areas near the LoC.
The Pakistan military added that one soldier also died, taking the toll in Pakistan-administered Kashmir to seven.
Indian defence spokesman Colonel Rajesh Kalia said that there was an unprovoked ceasefire violation by Pakistan. “Our troops retaliated strongly, causing heavy damage and casualties to the enemy,” Kalia said.
Pakistan’s army also claimed that India’s attacks in Jura, Shahkot and Nowshera sectors were “unprovoked” and deliberately targeted civilians.
Major General Asif Ghafoor, a spokesman for the Pakistani Armed Forces, said Pakistan responded “effectively”, killing nine Indian soldiers, injuring several others and destroying two bunkers.
Indian unprovoked CFVs in Jura, shahkot & Nousehri Sectors deliberately targeting civilians. Effectively responded. 9 Indian soldiers killed several injured. 2 Indian bunkers destroyed.
During exchange of fire 1 soldier & 3 civilians shaheed, 2 soldiers & 5 civilians injured.
— DG ISPR (@OfficialDGISPR) October 20, 2019
Islamabad has summoned the Indian envoy in protest over the shelling and killings, and offered to have diplomats from the United Nations Security Council’s five permanent members, including the United States and Russia, visit the border and see that no rebel camps exist there.
Both sides accused each other of violating a 2003 ceasefire accord.
Sunday’s clashes came days after Pakistan’s foreign ministry protested against similar incidents from across the heavily militarised LoC by Indian forces that killed three civilians and wounded another eight on October 15.
Deadly border clashes have spiked over the past few weeks which have seen Indian and Pakistani forces target frontier posts as well as villages, leading to casualties among soldiers and civilians on both sides.
Tensions between the neighbours have remained high since India revoked Kashmir’s autonomy on August 5 and imposed movement and communications restrictions to quell unrest.
Islamabad has warned that changing Kashmir’s status would escalate tensions but India said the withdrawal of the special status is an internal affair and is aimed at faster economic development of the territory.
Pakistan and India both control parts of Kashmir, but each lays claim to the entire region since the countries gained independence from Britain in 1947.
India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars over the region.
(SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES)