India and Pakistan exchanged fire across the de facto border of the disputed Kashmir region while blaming the other for instigating the shelling that killed at least nine people.
It was one of the deadliest skirmish between the two countries since August when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi revoked Kashmir’s semiautonomous status, angering neighboring Pakistan, which also lays claim to the region and worries that New Delhi may commit human rights violations against the area’s Muslim population.
The Pakistan Armed Forces said five civilians and one soldier were killed on its side and Indian Army chief Gen. Bipin Rawat told reporters Sunday that two of its soldiers and one civilian were killed during the fighting.
Rawat said the military destroyed three terrorist camps and artillery, killing between six and 10 Pakistani soldiers in retaliation for Pakistan shelling India during the night to create an avenue for sending terrorists into the country.
“We had picked up some definite information that some of the terror camps north of Pir Panjal are active,” Rawat told reporters after the attack. “The terrorists have arrived at these camps and they’re likely to infiltrate [India]. Last evening an attempt was made at Tangdhar in which we suffered two of our soldiers getting killed, one civilian also died and all this was to ensure that they can push in the terrorists.”
The Pakistan Armed Forces called Rawat’s claims “false” and that no terrorist camps were hit in the “unprovoked” attack.
Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor accused India of performing a “false flag” operation in order to justify attacking Pakistan and targeting civilians.
“Such false claims by Indian Army are being made to suit vested domestic interests,” Ghafoor said via Twitter. “This is against professional military ethos.”
The two nuclear-armed countries have repeatedly attacked each other over the Line of Control, which separates the two countries, despite having made a cease-fire agreement in 2003.
Tensions between the two countries have been climbing since February when terrorists based in Pakistan committed a suicide attack in India-controlled Jammu and Kashmir, killing some 40 Central Reserve Police Force personnel. India blamed Pakistan for the attack and conducted airstrikes on Jaish-e-Mohammed camps in Pakistan.