SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Tensions between India and Pakistan flared again in disputed Kashmir on Sunday as the two armies barraged each other with heavy artillery fire, killing at least three civilians, Indian police said.
Each side accused the other of starting the shelling and targeting civilian areas in violation of the 2003 cease-fire accord along the so-called Line of Control that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan.
India and Pakistan have a long history of bitter relations over Kashmir, with both claiming it in its entirety. They have fought two of their three wars since 1947 over their competing claims to the Himalayan region.
Shri Ram Ambarkar, an Indian police officer, said three civilians, including a woman and a child, were killed when shells fired from the Pakistani army hit homes at two locations along the Line of Control in the Kupwara area of Indian-controlled Kashmir on Sunday evening.
Ambarkar said some people were also feared injured as authorities launched a rescue operation amid heavy cross-border shelling in the area.
Since Friday, Pakistan’s military has charged India with repeated violations of the cease-fire along the frontier.
A Pakistani army statement said heavy artillery fire by India “deliberately targeted civilians” on the Pakistani side of the border.
The military said Sunday that two people were seriously hurt overnight and had to be evacuated. On Saturday, the Pakistani military said six people were hurt, including a child, when Indian soldiers launched a barrage of rockets and mortars into civilian areas of Pakistan.
Meanwhile, before the Sunday’s bloody shelling, some local residents in a frontier village in the Indian-controlled side of Kashmir protested and objected to the Indian army’s positioning of artillery guns near their hamlet.
Police Officer Ambarkar said the issue was an outcome of a “misunderstanding” and was sorted out.
Last weekend, five Indian special forces and five rebels were killed in fierce fighting in the area along the frontier.
The latest fighting has seen for the first time this year use of heavy artillery targeting civilian areas.
Rebel groups in Indian-held Kashmir demand that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country. India accuses Pakistan of arming and training anti-India rebels and also helping them by providing gunfire as cover for incursions into the Indian side. Pakistan denies this, saying it offers only moral and diplomatic support to the militants and to Kashmiris who oppose Indian rule.
Rebels have been fighting Indian rule since 1989. Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.