Nine killed as Indian and Pakistani troops trade fire

Modi praised the courage of India's armed forces. Picture: Getty Images
Modi praised the courage of India's armed forces. Picture: Getty Images
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Indian and Pakistani border guards traded gunfire in the divided region of Kashmir, leaving nine civilians dead and another 62 wounded, authorities said yesterday.

Both sides blamed each other for “unprovoked firing and shelling” of homes after midnight near a disputed border in the Kashmir region.

A statement issued by the Pakistani army said six civilians were killed and 46 others, including 22 women, wounded after Indian attacks near the city of Sialkot. It said the villages of Kanganpur and Bajra Gari were the worst hit by the shelling overnight.

Villages near Sialkot, an industrial city close to the boundary in Kashmir, often come under Indian firing and mortar shelling.

Pakistani television footage showed damaged houses, with mortar marks on walls and a hole in the roof of a house. Villagers gathered in a lane looked on while gravediggers prepared for the burials of those killed.

Dharmendra Parikh, a top Indian Border Security Force official, said three Indian civilians were killed and 16 wounded after about a dozen border guard posts and some villages came under fire starting around midnight.

Simrandeep Singh, an Indian administrator, said the firing targeted border posts and some villages about 15 miles south-west of Jammu, the winter capital of India’s Jammu-Kashmir state.

India began more than three weeks of celebrations yesterday to mark the 50th anniversary of what it claims was victory in the 1965 war with Pakistan.

The celebrations began on 28 August, the day Indian troops captured the strategic Haji Pir Pass in Pakistan.

They will go on until 22 September - the day India and Pakistan agreed to a UN-sponsored ceasefire.

The main event - a “victory carnival” with a show of military might, song and dance - is planned for 20 September on Rajpath, the boulevard in Delhi city centre where the annual Republic Day parade is held and where India recently organised a record-breaking yoga event.

President Pranab Mukherjee laid a wreath at the martyr’s memorial at Delhi’s India Gate monument.

Yesterday morning, Prime Minister Narendra Modi “praised the courage and bravery of our armed forces” on Twitter.

Tension has mounted between the two countries after talks between their national security advisers were called off because of disagreements related largely to Kashmir.

A ceasefire on the border has largely held since 2003, but gun battles and border skirmishes are fairly common. Earlier this month, at least nine civilians were killed and scores injured.

The Kashmir region is divided between the South Asian nations but claimed entirely by both. India accuses Pakistan of arming and training insurgents fighting for Kashmir’s independence from India or its merger with Pakistan, a charge Islamabad denies.

More than 68,000 people have been killed in the violence.

The South Asian rivals have fought two wars and a limited conflict over the region.

The 1965 conflict began when Pakistan sent up to 30,000 troops into Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir.

Indian soldiers invaded Pakistan in retaliation.

Over the years, both sides have claimed victory. Pakistan celebrates 6 September every year as “Defence of Pakistan Day” with a 21-gun salute and a victory parade. Indians meanwhile believe that their forces had the clear upper hand in the war.

The war was fought on the western front where for over three weeks more than 100,000 Indian soldiers fought against Pakistan’s 60,000 troops.

The fighting killed more than 8,000 men, mostly Pakistanis.