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Sunday, March 03, 2019, 12:42
8 killed in India-Pakistan fighting amid high tensions
By Associated Press
Sunday, March 03, 2019, 12:42 By Associated Press

Family members of a boy, who was killed by Indian shelling, mourn next his casket at a village in Hatian Bala, 40 kilometers from Muzafarabad, capital of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, March 2, 2019. (MD MUGHAL / AP)

SRINAGAR, India — Indian and Pakistani soldiers have again targeted each other's posts and villages along their volatile frontier in disputed Kashmir, killing at least six civilians and two Pakistani troops, officials said Saturday.

But in a sign that tensions between the nuclear-armed rivals could soon ease, a Pakistani Cabinet minister said a key train service between Pakistan and neighboring India would resume on Monday.

Fighting resumed Friday marking the first fatalities since dramatic escalation of tension between the two sides on Wednesday over Kashmir

Tensions have been running high since Indian aircraft crossed into Pakistan this past Tuesday, carrying out what India called a pre-emptive strike against militants blamed for a Feb 14 suicide bombing in Indian-controlled Kashmir that killed 40 Indian troops. Pakistan retaliated, shooting down a fighter jet Wednesday and detaining its pilot, who was returned to India on Friday in a peace gesture.

Fighting resumed overnight Friday. Pakistan's military said two of its soldiers were killed in an exchange of fire with Indian forces near the Line of Control that separates Kashmir between the rivals. 

READ MORE: Pakistan returns captured pilot to India

It marked the first fatalities for Pakistani troops since Wednesday, when tensions dramatically escalated between the nuclear-armed countries over Kashmir, which is split between them but claimed by both in its entirety.

Indian police, meanwhile, said two siblings and their mother were killed in Indian-controlled Kashmir. The three died after a shell fired by Pakistani soldiers hit their home in the Poonch region near the Line of Control. The children's father was critically wounded.

In Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, government official Umar Azam said Indian troops with heavy weapons "indiscriminately targeted border villagers" along the Line of Control, killing a boy and wounding three other people. He said several homes were destroyed by Indian shelling.

ALSO READ: Pak PM invites India for talks amid rising tensions across LoC

Following a lull lasting a few hours, shelling and firing of small arms resumed Saturday. A Pakistani military statement said two civilians were killed and two others wounded in the fresh fighting. The Indian army said Pakistani troops attacked Indian posts at several places along the militarized line.

Indian paramilitary officers carry the coffins of their colleagues at a base camp on the outskirts of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, March 2, 2019. (DAR YASIN / AP)

Since tensions escalated following last month's suicide attack, world leaders have scrambled to head off an all-out war between India and Pakistan. The rivals have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir since their independence from British rule in 1947.

The latest wave of tensions began after the militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad claimed responsibility for the Feb 14 suicide bombing by a Kashmiri militant on Indian paramilitary forces. India has long accused Pakistan of cultivating such militant groups to attack it. Pakistan has denied any involvement in the suicide attack.

Pakistan's minister for railways, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, told reporters Saturday that the Samjhauta Express train service linking the Pakistani city of Lahore with the Indian border town of Atari would resume on Monday. The service was suspended by Pakistani authorities this past week.

Thousands of people on both sides of Kashmir have fled to government-run temporary shelters or relatives' homes in safer areas to escape shelling along the frontier, which is marked by razor wire, watch towers and bunkers amid tangled bushes, forests and fields of rice and corn.

Kashmiri supporters of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) shout slogans against banning of Jama'at-e-Islami, the largest political and religious group in Indian-controlled Kashmir, during a protest in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, March 2, 2019. (DAR YASIN / AP)

"These battles are fought on our bodies, in our homes and fields, and we still don't have anything in our hands. We are at the mercy of these soldiers," said Mohammed Akram, a resident in the Mendhar area in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

In Pakistani-administered Kashmir, many displaced families urged the international community to help resolve the issue of Kashmir so that they can live peacefully.

"Whenever India fires mortars, it's we who suffer," said Mohammad Latif, a laborer who took refuge at a government building that was vacated for sheltering displaced families.

Meanwhile, Indian police said two paramilitary soldiers and two counterinsurgency police officials were killed in a gun battle with militants in Indian-controlled Kashmir, while troops fatally shot a civilian during anti-India protests.

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