At least 10 civilians have been killed and more than 50 others wounded, as India and Pakistan traded fire across their disputed border, officials have said.
The fighting on the border on Friday comes less than a week after planned security talks between India and Pakistan were cancelled amid a dispute over the intended parameters of the meeting.
Six died near the city of Sialkot in Pakistan’s Punjab province and at least four villagers were killed in Indian-administered Kashmir. Both sides have pinned the blame on each other for Friday’s exchange of fire.
A senior Pakistani security official told the AFP news agency that Indian forces began firing around 3am local time on Friday and continued intermittently during the morning.
“Six civilians embraced shahadat [martyrdom] and 46 were severely injured including 22 females due to Indian unprovoked firing/shelling on working boundary near Sialkot in Chaprar and Harpal sector,” a statement from the Pakistani military said, adding that they had returned fire.
Rakesh Kumar Sharma, a Border Security Force (BSF) official in Indian-controlled Kashmir, accused Pakistan of specifically targeting civilians with “unprovoked” mortar fire.
“Four villagers died in the shelling from across the border, three of them were killed early morning and one died of injuries in a hospital later,” Pawan Kotwal, the top administrator said.
A meeting between the Indian and Pakistani national security advisers in New Delhi on Sunday was called off at the last minute amid a dispute about whether the agenda should include the topic of Kashmir, the Himalayan territory both sides control in part but claim in full.
Last year, India cancelled talks between the two countries’ foreign secretaries, outraged over a similar meeting with Kashmiri separatists, a move that set back already tense relations between nations.
Civilians are regularly subjected to the two sides firing shells over the disputed border both in Kashmir and to the south in Punjab.
Pakistan and India have fought two of their three wars over the Himalayan region.
Shelling across the de facto border, known as the Line of Control (LoC) in disputed Kashmir and the “working boundary” in Punjab, has been on the rise this month.