Pakistan says 9 killed in Kashmir border clashes

Pakistani soldiers look at a colleague who was killed in cross border shelling during a funeral in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, in this Aug. 16, 2019 file photo. — AFP

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan said Tuesday that three Pakistani civilians died in Indian gunfire from across the de facto border in Kashmir.

Pakistan also said its forces later killed six Indian soldiers. But the Indian army rejected this claim as "totally fake," the Press Trust of India said.

The latest skirmishes took place a day after US President Donald Trump talked to the Pakistani and Indian prime ministers and urged them to reduce tensions over the disputed Himalayan region.

Tensions have skyrocketed after New Delhi scrapped Article 370 in the Indian constitution that had granted Kashmir special autonomy. It split the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two and downgraded their status to union territories, sparking a row with Pakistan.

"Indian fire had martyred three civilians including a seven-year old boy in Tatta Pani sector along the Line of Control," military spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor tweeted on Tuesday.

"Pakistan army targeted Indian posts, killing six Indian soldiers including an officer and wounding many others," he added.

PTI quoted officials as saying one Indian soldier died and four were wounded as Pakistani troops opened fire on forward posts and villages along the Line of Control in the Poonch district on Tuesday.

Indian army troops responded causing heavy damage to Pakistani army posts and casualties to Pakistani soldiers, PTI quoted a defense spokesman based in Jammu as saying.

In changing the status of Kashmir, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government also restricted freedom of movement in the region and cut the internet and phone lines.

Both India and Pakistan have controlled portions of the former princely state of Kashmir since independence in 1947. The dispute over the Muslim-majority region has been the spark for two major wars and countless clashes between them.

Earlier this year they again came close to all-out conflict, after a militant attack in Indian-held Kashmir in February was claimed by a group based in Pakistan, touching off tit-for-tat air strikes. — AFP