From the news desk

Kashmir villagers flee amid cross-border firing

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Thousands of villagers had fled from their homes on either side of a stretch of the India-Pakistan border where shooting continued intermittently Tuesday, officials said.

At least 10 civilians and soldiers from both sides have been killed since the latest exchange of fire began on January 1.

Four Pakistani civilians and an Indian Border Security Force (BSF) soldier have been killed since Sunday.

“We have not initiated this firing, but if our civilians and troops are targeted, we will respond,” DK Pathak, director general of the BSF, told reporters after laying a wreath on the coffin of the slain trooper in Samba sector.

Pathak said that India had evidence that large numbers of militants were trying to cross the border with Pakistan and the shooting could be an attempt to provide cover or diversion.

More than 10,000 people had either fled or been evacuated from villages along the border and moved to the homes of relatives and temporary camps, 6,000 of them since Monday, according to Shantmanu, a senior official in India’s Jammu and Kashmir state administration who goes by one name.

A couple of hundred families living in villages near the border on the Pakistani side fled from their homes Tuesday morning as the exchange of fire continued after a short break, said Mohammed Shohaib, an official of the Chenab Rangers, a force that mans Pakistan’s border with India.

“The civilian population of both sides is being dislodged. It is not a happy situation. We want normalcy back as soon as possible,” Pathak said. He said there had been no firing from Pakistan since midday Tuesday.

Pathak said that the militaries of both sides had not been in touch since Sunday.

Both Islamabad and New Delhi blame each other for the latest border violence which is threatening a 10-year-old ceasefire agreement.

The nuclear-armed neighbours have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947. SAPA

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