SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Four Pakistani soldiers were killed Monday after Indian and Pakistani soldiers traded gunfire in the divided Himalayan region of Kashmir, leading both of the nuclear rivals to blame the other for initiating the latest cease-fire violation.
Separately, at least five suspected militants were killed in a gunbattle with Indian troops Monday after they crossed into the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir from the Pakistani side of the territory, officials said.
Pakistan’s military said in a statement that the Pakistani soldiers were “doing maintenance” on communication lines in the border village of Kotli when they came under fire on Monday. It said the troops were on the Pakistani side of the boundary.
It said Pakistani troops returned fire, reportedly killing three Indian soldiers.
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An Indian military official, however, blamed Pakistani soldiers for attacking Indian positions and claimed their counter-offensive killed seven Pakistani soldiers. The officer, speaking on condition of anonymity in keeping with military rules, said Indian soldiers did not suffer any casualties.
In the past, both countries have accused the other of initiating border skirmishes leading to the deaths of soldiers and civilians.
Also on Monday, fighting erupted between the Indian troops and militants when soldiers intercepted heavily armed insurgents along the highly militarized de facto border that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan, said Col. Rajesh Kalia, an Indian army spokesman.
Army officials said militants lobbed grenades and sprayed gunfire from automatic rifles in the fighting. They said soldiers suffered no casualties.
There was no independent confirmation of the gunbattle, which occurred in the remote, mountainous and forested western Uri sector. No rebel group fighting against Indian rule since 1989 immediately issued any statement about the incident.
Meanwhile, India’s army chief on Monday warned Pakistan of “stronger action” and said the army will not allow anti-India activities to succeed in Kashmir.
Speaking to soldiers on India’s army day, Gen. Bipin Rawat repeated India’s allegation that Pakistan’s army was helping militants to sneak into in Indian-controlled Kashmir along the Line of Control.
“We’re using our might to teach them a lesson,” he said. “If we are forced, then we may resort to other action by stepping up military offensive.”
Rebel groups demand that Kashmir be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country. India accuses Pakistan of arming and training the rebels, which Pakistan denies.
Anti-India sentiment runs deep in the region, and most people support the rebels’ cause against Indian rule while also participating in civilian street protests against Indian control.
Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.
Ahmed reported from Islamabad, Pakistan.