Ten killed in Kashmir exchange of fire as India celebrates Independence Day
Five Pakistanis died in an exchange of fire along the de facto border in disputed Kashmir on Thursday, the Pakistani military and local officials said, as tensions between nuclear-armed rivals Islamabad and New Delhi soar over the Himalayan region.
The Pakistani army also said that five Indian soldiers had been killed. The clashes came as India celebrated the 52nd anniversary of its independence.
Skirmishes are frequent across the so-called Line of Control (LoC), but the latest deaths in two separate incidents come after Pakistan warned the it was ready to meet any Indian aggression over Kashmir.
"In efforts to divert attention from precarious situation in IOJ&K [Indian-held Kashmir],Indian Army increases firing along LOC. 3 Pakistani soldiers embraced shahadat [i.e. were killed]. Pakistan Army responded effectively," the Pakistani military said in a statement.
"5 Indian soldiers killed, many injured, bunkers damaged. Intermittent exchange of fire continues," it added, without specifying further where the incident took place.
There was no immediate confirmation from Indian officials.
Separately, two civilians were killed and one injured by the Indian troops along the LoC in Rawalakot district in Pakistani-held Kashmir, a senior local official there told AFP.
The official, Mirza Arshad Jarral, said intermittent exchanges of fire between the two militaries had been going on since morning.
The former princely state of Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since 1947, when its Maharajah, Hari Singh, accepted union with India without consulting its Muslim-majority population.
For decades, India has refused to hold a plebiscite allowing Kashmir’s inhabitants to determine the territory’s fate, as mandated by UN Security Council Resolution 47.
Pakistan and India have fought two of their three wars over the territory.
Tensions skyrocketed following India's shock move to revoke the autonomy of its portion of the disputed Himalayan territory last week.
On Wednesday, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan addressed the local legislative assembly of the Pakistani-administered Kashmir in Muzaffarabad.
He vowed the time had come to teach Delhi a lesson and promised to "fight until the end" against any Indian aggression.
Khan has also likened India's moves in Kashmir to Nazi Germany, accused them of ethnic cleansing, and appealed to the international community to take action.
Pakistan formally asked the United Nations Security Council late Tuesday to hold an emergency session to address the situation.
Islamabad has also expelled the Indian ambassador, halted bilateral trade and suspended cross-border transport services.
However, analysts said the actions were unlikely to move Delhi.
Earlier this year Pakistan and India came close to all-out conflict yet again, after a militant attack in Indian-held Kashmir in February was claimed by a group based in Pakistan, igniting tit-for-tat air strikes.