ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and India exchanged fresh fire across the Line of Control on Saturday, the Pakistani military said, with Indian officials stating there was no damage.

“Pakistani troops befittingly responded to Indian unprovoked firing” which started at 4am and continued for four hours in Bhimber sector on the Pakistani side of the LoC, a military statement said.

“There was small arms fire and mortar shells fire from across the border in Akhnoor sector which lasted for around two hours,” said Pawan Kotwal, a top civilian official in India-held Kashmir.

“No damage was caused. We are ready for any eventuality but it is peaceful in Jammu region.”

“This is a dangerous moment for the region,” Pakistan’s Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi told AFP after meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in New York.

Mr Ban on Friday offered to act as a mediator between New Delhi and Islamabad to defuse the tensions. “His [Mr Ban’s] good offices are available, if accepted by both sides,” the UN spokesman said.

In a statement to AFP, India’s mission to the UN said “India has no desire to aggravate the situation,” and that “our response was a measured counter-terrorist strike”.

Although there were no casualties, the pre-dawn exchanges heightened the fear among villagers living along the LoC, tens of thousands of whom have already been ordered by Indian authorities to leave home.

Saturday’s exchanges came shortly before Indian army chief Dalbir Singh travelled to Northern Command headquarters in held Kashmir to meet soldiers involved in Thursday’s strikes.

The army chief was able to “personally compliment officers & men who successfully executed surgical strikes” during his visit, the army said on Twitter.

Pakistan has rejected Indian claim of conducting surgical strikes.

Published in Dawn October 2nd, 2016

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