Cross-border gun and mortar battle rages after soldier killed in ‘rebel attack’ on Indian Kashmir army camp

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 October, 2016, 2:21pm
UPDATED : Monday, 03 October, 2016, 5:26pm

Indian and Pakistani troops are firing at each other along the border in divided Kashmir, as Indian troops are searching the site of a gunbattle where an Indian paramilitary soldier was killed.

An Indian army spokesman said Pakistani troops fired with provocation, using small arms and mortar shells in the Poonch sector of the Line of Control separating the Indian- and Pakistan-controlled parts of Kashmir.

A Pakistani army statement said its troops were responding to unprovoked firing by Indian soldiers on Monday.

Both sides said the exchange of fire was continuing.

Indian police said they were searching an Indian army camp that was attacked late Sunday by militants who fired grenades and guns and killed a soldier.

An unknown number of militants tried to break through the camp’s perimeter in Baramulla town but were repelled by soldiers and paramilitaries in heavy exchanges of fire, an army official said.

“One BSF (Border Security Force) man has been killed and another injured,” said senior police superintendent of Baramulla Imtiyaz Hussain Mir.

The incident that lasted more than two hours had been brought under control and firing had now stopped, the army’s northern command and police said.

The attack comes after India last week said it launched “surgical strikes” on militant posts across the de facto border that divides the Kashmir region between India and Pakistan, prompting a furious response from Islamabad.

Indian and Pakistani troops regularly exchange fire across the disputed border known as the Line of Control in Kashmir, but sending ground troops over the line is rare.

Islamabad has dismissed the talk of surgical strikes across the heavily militarised Line of Control as an “illusion” and said two of its soldiers had been killed in small arms fire.

The strikes followed the deadly attack on one of India’s army bases in Kashmir that New Delhi blamed on Pakistan-based militants, triggering a public outcry and demands for military action.

The raid on September 18 on the Uri army base by militants hurling grenades left 19 Indian soldiers dead in the worst such attack in more than a decade.

Early on Monday morning, soldiers were searching for the militants outside the Baramulla camp, located some 50km from Srinagar, and it was unknown if any had been killed or captured.

The militants were hurling grenades during the attack, according to the Press Trust of India, although this could not be confirmed. Residents told local media of loud gunfire coming from the camp.

“Terrorists opened fire on an army camp in Baramulla town,” said army spokesman Colonel Rajesh Kalia earlier.

Since last month’s attack at Uri, India has been on a diplomatic drive to isolate Pakistan.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since they gained independence from Britain seven decades ago, two of them over Kashmir. Both claim the region in full.

A number of armed separatist groups in the Indian-controlled part of the picturesque territory have for decades been fighting to break free from New Delhi.

Even before the Uri attack, tensions were high in the heavily militarised Kashmir region, with weeks of deadly protests in response to the killing of a young, popular militant leader.

The Kashiri separatist was killed during a gun battle with security forces in July.

More than 80 civilians have been killed, mostly in clashes with forces during protests against Indian rule, in the worst violence in the region since 2010.

Islamabad has repeatedly accused India of committing human rights abuses in the Muslim-majority state.

Additional reporting by Associated Press