1 May 2017

India says Pakistan killed 2 Indian soldiers in Kashmir

Two Indian soldiers were killed and their bodies mutilated Monday in an ambush by Pakistani soldiers along the highly militarized de facto border that divides the disputed region of Kashmir between the nuclear-armed rivals, the Indian army said. But Pakistan denied any such attack, calling the Indian claims false.

Separately, five police officials and two bank employees were killed when suspected rebels ambushed a bank van in Indian-controlled Kashmir, police said.

Pakistani soldiers fired rockets and mortars at two Indian positions southwest of the Line of Control in the Krishna Ghati sector, the army said in a statement.

It said Pakistani soldiers also ambushed an Indian patrol operating between the two posts and mutilated the bodies of two Indian soldiers.

The statement called the incident an "unprovoked" firing by Pakistani soldiers and said the "unsoldierly act" would be "appropriately responded."

The Pakistani army denied committing any cease-fire violation along the Line of Control. It said in a statement that Indian allegations of mutilating Indian soldiers' bodies were also false.

"Pakistani army is a highly professional force and shall never disrespect a soldier, even an Indian," it said.

In the past, both countries have accused the other of initiating border skirmishes leading to the deaths of soldiers and civilians on both sides.

Last year, Indian and Pakistani soldiers engaged in some of the worst fighting along the Line of Control since the two nations agreed to a cease-fire accord in 2003. India accused attackers from the Pakistani side of Kashmir of entering the Indian-held portion and mutilating the body of one of three slain Indian soldiers, leading to days of fighting along the frontier.

India and Pakistan have a long history of bitter relations over Kashmir, a Himalayan territory claimed by both. They have fought two of their three wars over the region since they gained independence from British colonial rule in 1947.

The Line of Control is guarded by the Indian and Pakistani armies and divides the two parts of Kashmir. Each country also has a separate paramilitary border force guarding the lower-altitude frontier separating Indian-controlled Kashmir and the Pakistani province of Punjab.

Also Monday, suspected rebels ambushed and sprayed gunfire at a bank van late in the southern Kulgam area, killing five police officials and two local bank employees, including a driver, senior top police officer Syed Javaid Mujtaba Gillani said.

He said the police were guarding the van and were returning to Kulgam after distributing cash to some bank branches.

There was no independent confirmation of the incident.

Rebel groups have been fighting since 1989 for Indian-controlled Kashmir's independence or merger with Pakistan.

Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the rebel uprising and a subsequent Indian military crackdown.The rebel groups have largely been suppressed by Indian forces in recent years. However, public opposition to Indian rule remains deep and is now principally expressed through street protests marked by youths hurling stones at government forces.