Supportersw of Pakistani religious party Jamaat-e-Islami rally to express solidarity with Indian Kashmiris, in Islamabad, Pakistan, Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019. Pakistani and Indian troops traded fire in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir on Wednesday, killing four civilians and wounding nearly a dozen others, officials from both sides said, as tensions remain high between the two South Asian countries. (AP Photo/B.K. Bangash)

Troops in Kashmir exchange fire, 4 civilians killed

October 16, 2019 - 1:51 pm

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistani and Indian troops exchanged gunfire in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, killing four civilians and wounding nearly a dozen others, officials from both sides said Wednesday, as tensions remain high between the two South Asian countries.

Kashmir is split between Pakistan and India and claimed by both countries in its entirety. They have fought two wars over the province.

India sparked a new round of tensions in August, when it downgraded the autonomy of its side of Kashmir and imposed tighter controls on the area.

On Wednesday, Pakistan's foreign ministry said it summoned an Indian diplomat to lodge its protest over the previous day's "cease fire violations" that killed three civilians, including two children, on the Pakistani side of the contested Kashmir border.

In neighboring India, Lt. Col. Devender Anand, an army spokesman, said Pakistan fired at two dozen Indian army posts along the highly militarized Poonch sector Monday and Tuesday. He said Pakistani troops used mortar and machine-guns and targeted several villages as well.

Anand blamed Pakistan for initiating the fire and said Indian troops "befittingly" responded to what he called a series of unprovoked cease-fire violations. Earlier, an Indian civil administrator, Rahul Yadav, said that a young woman and several cattle were killed because of Pakistani firing in the Poonch sector Tuesday.

Also Wednesday, Indian police officer Parvaiz Ahmed said Indian security forces killed three militants in an exchange of gunfire in southern Kashmir after receiving intelligence that a group of militants was hiding in the town Bijbehara town.

Police also said gunmen fatally shot one brick kiln worker and one apple trader from the Indian states of Chhattisgarh and Punjab states on Wednesday in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

Another trader from Punjab state was critically wounded after gunmen sprayed bullets in the southern Shopian area, a police officer said.

The police officer blamed militants fighting against Indian rule for the killings. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak with reporters.

Kashmir's largest indigenous rebel group, Hizbul Mujahideen, had warned that it would target Indians visiting Kashmir if New Delhi revoked Kashmir's special status.

Indian-administered Kashmir has experienced unrest and sporadic anti-government protests since New Delhi revoked its special status in August.

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Hussain reported from Srinagar, India.

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