Villagers flee as Pakistan, India trade artillery fire

Updated February 26, 2018

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SRINAGAR: India and Pakistan have exchanged artillery fire in the disputed Kashmir region forcing hundreds of people to flee, police in India-held territory said, raising doubts about a 15-year-old ceasefire between the two countries.

It was not clear what triggered the latest fighting on Saturday in the Uri sector along the Line of Control (LoC).

But tension has been running high since an attack on an Indian army camp in Kashmir this month in which six soldiers were killed.

India blamed Pakistan for the attack and said it would make it pay for the “misadventure”.

Police superintendent Imtiaz Hussain said that artillery shells allegedly fired by the Pakistan army fell in the Uri area and hundreds of villagers had fled their homes.

Indian forces returned artillery fire, an Indian officer said, the first time the heavy guns had been used since the 2003 ceasefire along the LoC.

The two armies have been exchanging intermittent small-arms and mortar fire over the past couple of years as ties deteriorated.

Mr Hussain claimed that Pakistani authorities made announcements from a mosque advising villagers living close to the LoC on the Indian side to flee, saying the situation was bad.

About 700 people were sheltering at school in Uri, he said.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry condemned the India firing and said in a statement that 17 civilians had been killed by Indian fire along the LoC this year.

Published in Dawn, February 26th, 2018