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Firing Across Kashmir Border

by AFP

A resident stands in front of his damaged house a day after cross border shelling in Jora, a village of Pakistan-administered. Sajjad Qayyum—AFP

At least 10 people killed on both sides of the border, with both countries accusing each other

At least 10 people were killed by artillery fire on Sunday along the de facto India-Pakistan border in Kashmir, officials said, as both countries accuse each other of trying to destabilize the disputed region.

Tensions escalated between the neighbors after India revoked Kashmir’s autonomy on Aug. 5 and imposed movement and communications restrictions to quell unrest. Officials from the two countries accused each other’s militaries of firing across the so-called Line of Control.

India’s army chief General Bipin Rawat told reporters in New Delhi that infiltration across the border has occurred repeatedly since Aug. 5. Two soldiers and a civilian were killed and three others injured in “unprovoked fire by Pakistan” in the Kupwara district, a spokesman for the army told AFP earlier Sunday. Several homes were damaged in the attack and three civilians were being treated in a hospital, he added.

Rawat said his troops used larger-round artillery fire to hit “terrorist camps” across the border. “We had definitive information and coordinates of these camps and in the retaliatory action that our forces have taken, we have caused severe damage to the terror infrastructure,” Rawat said, according to the Press Trust of India (PTI) news wire.

According to Rawat, since the shelling Indian forces have been unable to hear “any mobile communication” from the Pakistani side of the border, implying that “there have been casualty, damage, which the Pakistani army does not want to highlight,” PTI said.

But Islamabad accused the Indian army of targeting civilians, with the foreign affairs ministry saying six were killed, while several others—including women and children—were seriously hurt in areas near the Line of Control. The military added that one soldier also died, taking the toll in Pakistan-administered Kashmir to seven.

The shelling came ahead of two key Indian state polls on Monday, where nearly 100 million people can cast their votes in northern Haryana and western Maharashtra states.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party is aiming to win a second term in the states, and one of the BJP’s main campaign platforms has been the stripping of Muslim-majority Kashmir’s autonomy.

There has been a jump in deaths in recent days with five people killed in India-held Kashmir on Wednesday, two days after New Delhi restored mobile phone and text services.

Indian authorities said repeatedly during the lockdown that Kashmir has been mostly peaceful. Kashmir has been split between India and Pakistan since 1947 and was the spark of two wars and numerous skirmishes.

An armed rebellion against Indian rule has raged in the valley since 1989, claiming tens of thousands of lives, mostly civilians.

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