Indian military shelling in the disputed territory of Kashmir has killed at least four Pakistani soldiers, Pakistan’s military says, prompting fresh exchanges of fire between the South Asian neighbours.
“Indian troops targeted an army vehicle moving along the [Line of Control] along Neelum River at Athmaqam,” said a Pakistani military statement on Sunday, confirming that Pakistani troops had responded to the firing.
The vehicle plunged into the river, drowning the four soldiers, the statement said.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the incident and “praised the prompt response by Pakistan army in thwarting the attack”, a statement by his office said.
Lieutenant Colonel Rajesh Kalia, a spokesman for India’s defence ministry, said he had no knowledge of the incident, Reuters news agency reported.
India and Pakistan both claim Kashmir in full but administer separate parts of it, divided by the Line of Control (LoC), which serves as a defacto border. Skirmishes across the LoC have become increasingly common in the last year, despite a 2003 ceasefire agreement.
Tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbours have been high in recent months, particularly in the Kashmir region. Last July, Indian security forces killed a young Kashmiri fighter, prompting months of street protests and an ensuing security crackdown in Indian-administered Kashmir that has killed at least 100 people.
The crackdown also prompted several attacks on Indian military bases in the area, which the Indian government blamed on Pakistan-based groups. Pakistan denies providing sanctuary to such groups.
Tensions ratcheted up even higher after India’s military claimed to have carried out “surgical strikes” on the Pakistani side of the LoC in September, targeting bases operated by armed groups fighting for Kashmiri independence from India.
Pakistan denies the strikes ever took place.
Since September, Pakistan’s military says Indian shelling across the LoC has intensified, with more than 900 incidents recorded, mainly resulting in civilian casualties, according to a statement released earlier on Sunday.
Indian denies initiating hostilities, and alleges that the skirmishes have been started by Pakistani forces shelling Indian positions and civilians. Pakistan denies the charge. Al Jazeera is unable to independently verify the allegations as access to the area is severely restricted by the militaries on both sides.
Dozens of civilians have been killed in the months of violence on both sides of the LoC, according to local media reports.