SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Indian and Pakistani troops fired machine guns and mortar shells over the border in Kashmir, wounding at least 12 people — including children — as the disputed region sees some of the most serious tensions in a decade, officials said Friday.
A 2003 cease-fire between the nuclear-armed neighbors has largely held for the past 10 years, although sporadic violations are common. In recent days, however, the skirmishes have escalated significantly.
Both India and Pakistan have reported an increase in the number of cross-border attacks since the current Pakistani and Indian prime ministers held their first face-to-face meeting last month in New York and agreed on the need to reduce tensions.
The latest violence started Thursday night at about two dozen border posts along the frontier. As in most cases of firing along the border, India and Pakistan accused each other of initiating the fighting.
Shantmanu, an Indian civil administrator in Kashmir who uses only one name, said 10 civilians, including four children, were wounded. In Islamabad, Pakistani military officials said Indian troops fired first, wounding two civilians. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with military policy.
Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry called the cease-fire violations "a matter of great concern." On Wednesday, India accused Pakistani troops of firing guns and mortars on at least 50 Indian border posts overnight in Kashmir, calling it the most serious cease-fire violation in a decade.
Analysts say it is too early to determine whether the firing signals a more serious escalation on the horizon. Vivek Katju, a retired Indian diplomat, said the violence could be an attempt to raise tensions along the border to draw international attention to the conflict.
India and Pakistan have fought two wars over control of Kashmir, which is divided between them and claimed by both. India regularly accuses Pakistan of supporting Kashmiri rebels who have been fighting on the Indian side since 1989 for independence or a merger with Pakistan.
An estimated 68,000 people have been killed in the conflict, though most resistance is now shown through street protests. Pakistan denies giving any backing to the rebels beyond moral support. __ Associated Press writer Rebecca Santana contributed to this report from Islamabad.