SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Tensions soared Friday along the frontier between India and Pakistan in the disputed Kashmir region as soldiers from the nuclear-armed rivals continued to shell villages and border posts.
In the latest incident, an Indian paramilitary officer said a civilian and a soldier were killed by Pakistani firing on Friday.
The officer said Pakistani soldiers fired mortars and automatic gunfire at several border posts in the Jammu area in an “unprovoked” violation of the 2003 cease-fire accord between the countries. He said Indian soldiers “befittingly” retaliated.
The officer spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to provide information to the media.
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He said dozens of villagers living along the frontier were evacuated to safer places.
The Indian military said Friday that its soldiers returned Pakistani fire in at least two places along the Line of Control, the de facto border.
While the Line of Control is guarded by the Indian and Pakistani armies and divides the two parts of Kashmir, each country also has a separate paramilitary border force guarding the lower-altitude frontier separating Indian-controlled Kashmir and the Pakistani province of Punjab.
The two countries often trade accusations about who is to blame for firing and shelling in the region.
On Friday, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry summoned India’s high commissioner to protest the deaths of six civilians and injuries to 22 others in Indian firing along the frontier the previous day, the ministry said in a statement.
Meanwhile, a senior officer with India’s Border Security Force, Arun Kumar, told reporters in Jammu city that border guards have killed 15 Pakistani soldiers in “retaliatory firing and shelling” since last week.
“We have destroyed their OP (outposts) and damaged a few,” Kumar was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India news agency.
Pakistan’s army denied the Indian claim, calling it “absolutely baseless.”
In Islamabad, the Pakistani army said in a statement that the claim was part of an Indian propaganda campaign aimed at hiding its losses.
Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesman Nafees Zakaria accused India of committing cease-fire violations to divert the attention of the international community from its suppression of a wave of recent protests against Indian rule in Kashmir.
On Thursday, each nation expelled a diplomat amid the escalating tensions. Troops from the two countries have regularly traded fire since last month, when India said it carried out “surgical strikes” against militants in the Pakistan-controlled part of Kashmir. Pakistan dismissed the claim and called on India to produce evidence to back it up.
Two of the three wars between India and Pakistan since 1947 have been fought over their competing claims to Kashmir. Each has administered part of Kashmir since 1947. India accuses Pakistan of training and arming anti-Indian militants and helping infiltrate into the Indian side.
Pakistan denies this, saying it only offers moral and diplomatic support to the militants and to Kashmiris who oppose Indian rule.
Associated Press writer Munir Ahmed in Islamabad, Pakistan, contributed to this report.