At least nine people were killed and dozens wounded in cross-border firing by Indian and Pakistani forces on Friday, officials said, increasing tensions less than a week after high-level talks between the estranged neighbors were called off.
The exchange of fire on Friday is the latest in a series of cross-border incidents between the nuclear-armed South Asian rivals, in which dozens of soldiers and civilians on both sides have died over the last year. The prime ministers from both countries had agreed on a number of measures last month to reduce tensions, including a meeting between senior border security officials from both sides.
Both sides accused each other of starting the deadly exchange on Friday. Both Pakistani and Indian security officials said they were responding to unprovoked firing from the other side.
Three civilians were killed in the Indian border region of Jammu, part of the disputed Kashmir region, and 20 others were injured, according to local official Pawan Kotwal.
“[The] Pakistani side started shelling around midnight (and) that intensified early Friday morning around dawn,” Mr. Kotwal said.
Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said Indian forces started firing across the border at 11:30 p.m. local time on Thursday.
Six civilians were killed and at least 47 were injured on the Pakistani side in the firing which ended at 11 a.m. on Friday, the ministry said, adding that Pakistan has lodged a formal protest with India.
The Pakistani casualties were from villages in the Sialkot district, which is on the border near the Jammu area. New Delhi and Islamabad accuse each other of escalating tensions along the border in Kashmir, which both sides claim in its entirety. Each controls a part of the region.
India also accuses Pakistan of supporting armed Kashmiri separatists and harboring militants who carry out cross-border terror attacks. Pakistan denies the allegations, saying it only offers moral and diplomatic support to the people of Kashmir.
Kashmir was at the center of the war of words that led to the cancellation of talks that had been scheduled for this week. Both sides accused each other of sabotaging the meeting.
India said Pakistan was trying to deviate from the agreed agenda on terrorism, while Pakistan said there can be no talks without a discussion on Kashmir.
The meeting was to be led by the Indian and Pakistani national security advisers. Despite the cancellation, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that a meeting between senior border security officials from both sides will take place next month.