At least three Pakistani soldiers have been killed when India and Pakistan exchanged fire across the Line of Control in the disputed region of Kashmir, Pakistan’s military said, in the latest round of hostilities between the nuclear-armed neighbours.
The soldiers were killed in an exchange of fire in the Rawalakot area of Pakistan-administered Kashmir on Tuesday, a Pakistani military statement said. Another soldier was wounded, the military said.
Tensions have been high in South Asia since India and Pakistan conducted air raids on each other’s territory and Pakistan shot down an Indian fighter jet in February.
The military escalation followed a suicide attack in the Indian-administered Kashmir town of Pulwama that killed at least 40 Indian security personnel and which India blames on Pakistan.
Both India and Pakistan claim Kashmir – a territory over which they have fought two of their three wars – in full but administer separate portions of it, divided by the Line of Control (LoC).
On Monday, an elderly man was killed and five others wounded by Indian shelling in the Nezapir area of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, officials said.
There has been a tenuous ceasefire in place at the LoC since 2003, but both sides regularly violate it, especially at times of high tensions.
In 2018, Pakistan’s military said there had been a marked uptick in Indian shelling across the de facto border, killing at least 55 people – mostly civilians – and wounding more than 300 others.
India says Pakistani shelling across the LoC killed at least 14 security personnel in 2018, according to government data.
Since the Pulwama attack, shelling across the Line of Control has increased, with residents reporting almost daily barrages by both sides across the length of the de facto border.
Indian authorities blamed Pakistan for the Pulwama attack, sharing a dossier of evidence that they said linked the attack to Pakistan-based armed groups.
On Thursday, Pakistan’s foreign office said Pakistani authorities had investigated the leads provided in the dossier and found “no link” to Pakistan.
“While 54 detained individuals are being investigated, no details linking them to Pulwama have been found so far. Similarly, the 22 pin locations shared by India have been examined. No such camps exist,” said a statement.
Pakistan has come under increasing pressure from the international community to crack down on armed groups operating on its soil, particularly those such as Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) that conduct activities centred around Kashmir.
In the wake of the Pulwama attack, Pakistan said it had renewed its crackdown on armed groups, sealing dozens of mosques and schools run by JeM and LeT and taking steps to implement UN-mandated assets freezes on those groups.__AL Jazeera