ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan and India traded fire in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, with the latest exchang es killing two Pakistani troops, an Indian soldier and a civilian woman, officials on both sides said Thursday.
The Pakistani military said in a statement that its troops came under attack Wednesday in the Dewa area, where the two soldiers died, and returned fire. There was also a cross-border shooting in the Haji Pir region. The Pakistani military called it an “unprovoked ceasefire violation.”
In India, army spokesman Col. Rajesh Kalia said an Indian soldier was killed when Pakistani forces targeted their positions Wednesday in the area of Rampur, in the Indian-administered Kashmir. He said Indian soldiers returned fire. A young Indian civilian woman was also killed and another wounded in the Pakistani shelling Wednesday in the Rampur area, said a local civil administrator, Ghulam Nabi Itoo.
Tensions in Muslim-majority Kashmir — which is divided between Pakistan and India but claimed by both in its entirety — have escalated since August, when India downgraded the autonomy of the portion of Kashmir it administers and imposed a lock-down.
Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi condemned the latest cease-fire violation and paid tribute to the two killed soldiers, accusing Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi of looking to disrupt peace in the region.
Also on Thursday, Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan told a gathering of farmers in Punjab province that Modi could attack Pakistan's part of Kashmir to divert world attention from political turmoil he has been facing at home. He said Pakistan would respond to any such Indian move.
The two nuclear-armed neighbors have two of their three wars over Kashmir after gaining independence from British rule in 1947.
In February, an escalation pushed them to the brink of war again when a suicide bombing in Indian-run Kashmir killed 40 Indian troops, an attack claimed by a Pakistan-based militant group.
Pakistan later said its forces downed two Indian air force planes and captured an Indian pilot, who was later released.
Islamabad has repeatedly claimed that New Delhi seeks to launch cross-border attacks on Pakistan to divert international attention from its human rights violations in Kashmir and tensions with its own minority Muslims.
Associated Press writer Aijaz Hussain contributed to this story from Srinagar, India.