India-Pakistan border clashes leave civilians dead
KONFRONTASI-Indian and Pakistani troops have traded gunfire and mortars in the disputed Kashmir region, killing at least eight civilians and injuring several others, according to news reports.
Al Jazeera has learned that a woman has succumbed to her injuries on Sunday morning, bringing to six the number of fatalities on the Indian side.
Pakistani media, meanwhile, reported that two people were killed and six others were injured on its side of the border.
Shelling between Pakistani and Indian forces continued overnight, making it the eighth consecutive day of firing between the two sides, which both marked the 69th anniversary of their independence from Britain on Friday and Saturday respectively.
Earlier, Indian Police Inspector-General Danish Rana said that three of the Indian fatalities were caused by a shell fired by Pakistani troops in the Balakote sector of the divided region on Saturday. The dead included a village headman.
Rana said at least 20 civilians were wounded in the fighting at different places in the region and that at least six of them were being airlifted to neighbouring Jammu city for treatment.
On the Pakistani side, Adnan Khurshid, a senior official in the town of Kotli, told AFP news agency that an elderly man was killed in the Nakyal sector on Saturday.
Another official, Nazakat Hussain, said that a man named Mohammed Shahpal later succumbed to his injuries in hospital.
Each side of the conflict blamed the other for the violence.
Indian army spokesman Lt. Col. Manish Mehta said Pakistani soldiers fired mortars and gunfire without any provocation in the region.
In a statement, Pakistan's army blamed India for "unprovoked" firing and added that "Pakistani troops befittingly responded".
The two nuclear-armed archrivals have a history of uneasy relations and regularly exchange fire over the highly militarised Line of Control.
Mehta blamed Pakistani troops for firing on Indian positions in the region and said Indian soldiers have responded to "this unprovoked firing."
Muslim-majority Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan, but claimed in full by both, since the two countries gained independence from Britain in 1947.
The two countries have fought two of their three wars over their competing claims to Kashmir, though a 2003 ceasefire has largely held despite small but regular firefights.
The latest border clashes come as Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan's national security adviser, plans to visit India on August 23 for talks.[mr/aje]