India accuses Pakistan of fresh attacks on Kashmir frontier

SRINAGAR: Indian officials said Pakistani troops opened fire Saturday along their volatile frontier in Kashmir, killing two civilians and a solider in the latest escalation of violence in the disputed region.

Indian police said Pakistani soldiers were targeting Indian border posts and villages with mortar shells and automatic gunfire for the fourth straight day in Jammu region. Pakistan did not immediately comment Saturday, but both countries have accused the other of initiating past border skirmishes and causing civilian and military casualties.

The two civilians, one a teenage boy, were killed Saturday when mortar shells exploded inside their homes, police said. At least 10 civilians and a paramilitary soldier were also injured.

The army soldier was killed in Poonch sector along the de facto frontier where Indian and Pakistani soldiers on Saturday were trading gunfire and mortar shells, said Col. Nitin Joshi, an Indian army spokesman.

Pakistan on Friday accused Indian troops of initiating cross-border fire and targeting Pakistani villages.

India and Pakistan have a long history of bitter relations over Kashmir, a Himalayan territory claimed by both in its entirety. They have fought two of their three wars over the region since they gained independence from British colonial rule in 1947.

Most of the recent fighting is taking place along a somewhat-defined frontier where each country has a separate paramilitary border force guarding the lower-altitude 200-kilometer (125-mile) boundary separating Indian-controlled Kashmir and the Pakistani province of Punjab.

Late Friday, it escalated to the contentious frontier that includes a 740-kilometer (460-mile) rugged and mountainous stretch called the Line of Control that is guarded by the armies of India and Pakistan.

On Friday, the two countries summoned other’s senior diplomats in their capitals to register their anger and protest over what both call unprovoked cease-fire violations. They also issued statements condemning the violence.

Schools in frontier villages have been closed on the Indian side and authorities advised residents to stay indoors as shells and bullets rained down.

Indian authorities have also deployed bulletproof vehicles to evacuate people who were injured and sick. Bullets and shrapnel scarred homes and walls amid the intense firing and shelling.

The exchange of fire comes after Islamabad on Monday accused Indian forces of killing four Pakistani soldiers along the Line of Control in Kashmir, where 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.

Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown since 1989.