India, Pakistan trade border fire in Kashmir, 8 killed

SRINAGAR, India (AP) " Eight civilians were killed and nine others wounded by Pakistani shelling in Kashmir on Tuesday, Indian officials said, as cross-border firing by the two countries' troops escalated in the disputed region.

A police officer said six people, including two children, were killed by Pakistani shelling in Ramgarh sector. The officer spoke on condition of anonymity in keeping with department policy.

Civil administrator Pawan Kotwal said two women also died in Rajouri sector in cross-border firing. He said at least nine civilians were injured.

Kotwal said hundreds of civilians living in villages along the frontier have been evacuated to safer places in recent weeks and are spending nights in government-run shelters.

Thousands of villagers in the Pakistani-administered portion of Kashmir also moved to safer places as the cross-border shelling continued amid heightened tensions, said the region's revenue minister, Sardar Farooq Sikandar.

An army officer and a border guard official in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir said Indian soldiers "befittingly" replied to what they described an "unprovoked" violation of a 2003 cease-fire accord.

The officers, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media, said the exchange of fire was continuing at several places along the frontier.

The Indian and Pakistani armies guard the Line of Control that divides the two parts of Kashmir. Each country also has a separate paramilitary border force that guards the frontier separating Indian-controlled Kashmir and the Pakistani province of Punjab.

An Indian soldier was killed and four others were wounded when troops from the two nuclear-armed countries exchanged mortar and gunfire in Rajouri sector on Monday night.

In Islamabad, the Pakistan Foreign Ministry summoned the Indian deputy high commissioner on Tuesday and "strongly condemned unprovoked cease-fire violations" by Indian troops a day earlier.

The ministry said in a statement that six civilians were killed and eight others were wounded Monday at two places along the Line of Control.

It urged India to respect the cease-fire accord and "stop targeting villages and civilians."

Troops from the two countries have regularly traded fire since last month, when India said it carried out "surgical strikes" against militants in the Pakistan-controlled part of Kashmir. Pakistan dismissed the claim and called on India to produce evidence to back it up.

The tensions have also escalated at the government level, and last week each nation expelled a diplomat.

Both sides accuse the other of initiating the firing.

Two of the three wars between India and Pakistan since 1947 have been fought over their competing claims to Kashmir. Each has administered part of Kashmir since 1947.

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Associated Press writer Munir Ahmed in Islamabad, Pakistan, contributed to this report.

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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