Three Pakistani soldiers have been killed by Indian fire across the Line of Control in the disputed Kashmir region, Pakistani officials said Tuesday.
A military statement said the ‘unprovoked cease-fire violation’ took place Monday in Rawalakot in the Pakistan-controlled part of Kashmir. It came two days after India’s army said four of its soldiers had been killed by Pakistani fire along the de facto border between the South Asian rivals.
In the latest shooting, the Indian military said that its soldiers targeted Pakistani posts after the Pakistani side had targeted their positions. The Indian troops did not suffer any casualties, officials said.
The incident happened hours after the wife and mother of an imprisoned Indian naval officer who faces the death penalty in Pakistan for espionage and sabotage were allowed to meet with him in Islamabad.
The situation remained tense in some of the Pakistan-controlled part of Kashmir, with residents fleeing to safer places in the region.
After Saturday’s shooting, the Indian military said in a statement that the soldiers’ killings ‘will not go in vain.’ India said Pakistani soldiers had violated the 2003 cease-fire accord by targeting Indian forward posts in the Rajouri sector.
Pakistan’s army and the foreign ministry did not respond to the Indian claims.
India and Pakistan have a long history of bitter relations over the Himalayan territory of Kashmir, which is claimed by both in its entirety. Both countries have repeatedly accused the other of initiating border skirmishes that led to the deaths of soldiers and civilians.
They have fought two of their three wars over the region since they gained independence from British colonial rule in 1947.
Meanwhile, Indian troops killed a rebel commander in a gunfight early Tuesday in southern Samboora village in Indian-held Kashmir, police said.
Police called the killing of Noor Mohammed a ‘significant breakthrough.’
A statement by police blamed Mohammed for masterminding and coordinating a string of attacks, including an audacious strike recently by three militants near the highly secured airport in the region’s main city of Srinagar.
Anti-India protests and clashes followed as the fighting raged on Tuesday, with hundreds of residents hitting streets in solidarity with the rebels. Government forces fired shotgun pellets and tear gas to quell rock-throwing protesters. There were no immediate reports of injuries.
Tuesday’s gunfight is the latest in a string of deadly shootouts between Indian forces and rebels in Kashmir. Over 200 rebels, 75 Indian soldiers and police, and at least 40 civilians have died in the violence this year.
Rebel groups have been fighting Indian troops since 1989, demanding that Kashmir be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.
Anti-India sentiment runs deep among Indian-controlled Kashmir’s mostly Muslim population, with most people supporting the rebels. Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown. India accuses Pakistan of arming and training the rebels, which Pakistan denies.
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