India, Pakistan Trade Fire in Kashmir

MUZAFFARABAD, Pakistan (AP) -- Pakistani and Indian troops clashed in disputed Kashmir, leaving 11 people dead, including three Indian soldiers, and wounding more than 30 others on both sides, officials said Friday. The fighting came amid increasing tension between the South Asian neighbors.

In a statement, Pakistani military and government officials blamed India for initiating the fighting by firing rockets and mortar shells that killed five Pakistani civilians and wounded 27 others overnight and Friday.

The statement called it the latest unprovoked incident of cease-fire violations by India and said Pakistani troops responded by targeting the Indian posts. Raja Shahid Mahmood, a government official in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, said several homes were damaged.

"People are running for safety in panic and India is deliberately targeting civilian population," he told The Associated Press. Villagers were hiding in community bunkers and the exchange of fire had intensified, he said.

Mohammad Shabir, a shop owner in the border village of Chakothi, said officials shut the main bazaar after India targeted the village with rockets and people hid in bunkers.

In Srinagar, the capital of Indian-controlled Kashmir, the Indian army said three of its soldiers were killed and three soldiers wounded. According to police officer Mohammed Ashraf, three Indian civilians, including one woman, were also killed by Pakistani shelling. He said one civilian was listed in critical condition at a hospital. Two houses also were damaged in the shelling, Ashraf said.

Col Rajesh Kalia, an Indian army spokesman, blamed Pakistan for starting the clash.

In Pakistan, authorities said the exchange of fire between Pakistani and Indian forces started Thursday and continued overnight in the Himalayan region that is split between both countries and claimed by both in its entirety.

The latest development comes a day after Pakistan summoned an Indian diplomat to protest what it called India's violation of a 2003 cease-fire agreement. Two civilians were wounded Thursday on the Pakistani side of the border in that exchange of fire.

Pakistan's Foreign Ministry in a statement again summoned an Indian diplomat Friday and lodged a protest alleging Indian cease-fire violations, saying they have killed at least 21 people since January.

Pakistan and India have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir since gaining independence from Britain in 1947.

Tensions between the two countries soared in February 2019, when Pakistan shot down an Indian warplane in Kashmir and captured a pilot in response to an airstrike by Indian aircraft targeting militants inside Pakistan. India said the strikes targeted Pakistan-based militants responsible for a suicide bombing that killed 40 Indian troops in the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir.