Four civilians were killed Tuesday in heavy exchanges of fire between Indian and Pakistani troops along their border in the south of the disputed territory of Kashmir, officials from the rival sides said.

“One young man died during the shelling. We are asking residents in the area to remain confined to their homes,” Danesh Rana, inspector general of police in the Indian-controlled part of the region, told AFP.

The man was hit when a mortar bomb fired from the Pakistani side of the border landed near his house in the Pargwal sector, 340 kilometres (210 miles) south of Indian Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar, Rana said.

The Pakistan foreign ministry accused Indian troops of “unprovoked firing” and targeting villages across the border that killed two civilians aged 14 and 22 and injured seven.

“The Government of Pakistan lodged protest with the Government of India on the latest unprovoked ceasefire violations by the Indian security forces,” the ministry said in a statement.

A Pakistani military statement late Tuesday said three civilians were killed and 22 others were wounded in “Indian unprovoked shelling and firing on civilian population.”

An Indian Border Security Force official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the exchange started in the morning when guards noticed “suspicious movement” in the bushes near the border and fired.

“It was an attempt at infiltration. The Pakistan side soon fired heavy weapons which is being retaliated (by Indian troops),” the official said.

A ceasefire agreement signed by the South Asian rivals in 2003 has largely held but each regularly accuses the other of violating it. Indian officials reported nearly 200 violations in July.

India’s defence minister told parliament recently that Pakistan had violated the ceasefire over 1,000 times since the agreement, while Pakistan regularly registers complaints of violations by India to a UN mission which monitors the border.

In July at least five civilians and two soldiers died on both sides during cross-border firing.

The Himalayan region of Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan, but claimed in full by both, since the two countries gained independence from Britain in 1947.

They have fought two wars over the disputed region, where resentment at Indian rule runs deep.

Since 1989 several rebel groups have been fighting hundreds of thousands of Indian forces deployed in the region, seeking independence or a merger of the territory with Pakistan.

The fighting has left tens of thousands, mostly civilians, dead.


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