Indian and Pakistan security forces traded fire along their troubled frontier, leaving five civilians dead in Indian Kashmir and four in Pakistan, marring the Muslim festival of Eid, officials on the two sides said Monday.
The two countries accused each other of provoking the firing which stoked fresh tensions between the nuclear-armed nations that have fought three wars, two over scenic Muslim-majority Kashmir.
Pakistani paramilitary troops fired mortar shells at villages and border posts in Indian Kashmir, killing five villagers and injuring at least 30 more, Indian police said.
A Pakistani military statement said four civilians, including two children “embraced shahadat (martyrdom) due to unprovoked firing by the Indian BSF (Border Security Force) on the working boundary near Sialkot on Eid Day”.
Sialkot borders the Indian state of Punjab where cross-border fire in the Punjab region killed two Pakistani civilians in August, according to officials.
Pakistan said there was also shelling and machine-gun fire around four places along the Line of Control, the de facto border separating Pakistan and Indian Kashmir, resulting in cancellation of some Eid al-Adha prayers but no casualties.
The casualties in Indian Kashmir occurred when shells landed near a bus stand and houses in the Arnia sector of the southern Jammu region, police director general K. Rajendra told AFP.
“The firing started (Sunday) night. It’s continuing intermittently,” Rajendra told AFP.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan but claimed in full by both.
Rivalry with Pakistan has created of the world’s tensest regions with an estimated 500,000 Indian troops deployed in Indian Kashmir.
India and Pakistan often accuse each other of violating a 2003 ceasefire agreement. But villagers in Indian Kashmir said the latest firing was particularly heavy.
“I’ve never seen such massive firing. Bombs were falling on houses,” Vijay Kumar, one injured villager, told India’s NDTV news.
Separately, Indian defence spokesman Manish Mehta accused Pakistani military of “unprovoked firing” in Bhimber Gali sector of Kashmir, prompting an “equal and effective response”.
Since 1989 fighting between Indian forces and rebels seeking independence or merger of the territory with Pakistan has killed tens of thousands, mostly civilians.
Violence has fallen in the region since 2004 when the countries began a peace process, but there are sporadic rebel attacks on Indian government forces while Indian Kashmiris often accuse security forces of human rights abuses.
Eid festivities were muted in the Kashmir region, hit last month by devastating monsoon rains and floods which killed more than 450 people and caused billions of dollars in damage to homes, businesses and livelihoods.
Source: Prothom Alo