Seven Pakistani soldiers were killed in retaliatory fire by Indian forces along the disputed Kashmir border, according to Indian officials, but Pakistan refuted those claims.
India’s Border Security Force (BSF) said Pakistan Rangers targeted Indian positions with sniper fire early on Friday, following a failed overnight attempt by fighters to cross the border near the main city of Jammu in Indian-administered Kashmir.
“During intermittent firing of small arms and area weapons, one militant and seven rangers were shot dead,” the BSF said in a press statement.
Its spokesman, Shubhendu Bhardwaj, told AFP news agency that troops launched an “aggressive offensive” after one of their soldiers was critically wounded by sniper fire from across the border.
“There was an infiltration attempt and sniper fire. We retaliated. The bodies are on the other side of the border,” said Bhardwaj.
However, Lieutenant-General Asim Bajwa, a Pakistani army spokesman, refuted the claim and accused India of unprovoked shooting across the Line of Control (LoC), the de factor border.
Both India and Pakistan claim the disputed Himalayan region in full, but govern over separate parts of it, divided by the heavily militarised LoC.
Indian claim of hitting or killing any Pakistani soldier/Ranger with firing at anytime of today at LOC/ working bdry absolutely false-2/2
— Gen(R) Asim Saleem Bajwa (@AsimBajwaISPR) October 21, 2016
The Indian-controlled part of the territory has a Muslim majority, and there are a number of armed separatist groups fighting New Delhi.
Tensions had already been high in the region since the Indian army killed a leading Kashmiri separatist in a gunfight in early July, sparking a series of protests that have left more than 80 dead and thousands injured.
A major attack on an Indian army base in Indian-administered Kashmir last month further heightened tensions between the two nuclear-armed rivals, with both armies reporting daily exchanges of fire along the disputed border.
Nineteen Indian army soldiers were killed in last month’s attack, which Delhi blamed on Pakistan-based armed groups.
India later said it launched what it termed “surgical strikes” on “terrorist” targets several kilometres inside Pakistan-controlled Kashmir. Pakistan dismissed those claims as an “illusion”.