At least five civilians were killed and 11 injured on Saturday as Indian and Pakistani soldiers traded fire in the disputed Kashmir frontier region. The resumed fighting violated a temporary ceasefire put in place after a week of escalating unease at the border. The nuclear-armed rivals fired mortars and artillery at each other despite the release of an Indian pilot who was shot down by Pakistan, but then sent back as a “peace gesture”.The release of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman to Indian authorities late Friday following 60 hours in Pakistani custody boosted hopes of a de-escalation.
Fighting resumed overnight into dawn on Saturday, leaving two siblings and their 24-year-old mother dead in Indian-administered Kashmir. Their father was also critically injured and has been admitted to the hospital. The three died after a shell fired by Pakistani soldiers hit their home in Poonch region near the Line of Control (LoC) that divides the Himalayan territory of Kashmir between the two nuclear-armed rivals, police said. “At 6pm, Pakistan started shelling, which went on for three hours. One of the shells hit by Pakistan hit the house, in which three members of a family were killed, including two innocent children,” Poonch resident Mohammad Saleem told Al Jazeera.
In Pakistan-administered Kashmir, a man and a boy were killed by Indian shelling in Nakiyal, said Nasrullah Khan, a hospital official. Khan said a man was also wounded in the TattaPani area. The Pakistani army said in a statement that two of its soldiers were killed in Nakiyal in an “exchange of fire while targeting Indian posts undertaking firing on civilian population”.
Indian army Chief Bipin Rawat dashed to Udhampur in his country’s sector of Kashmir on Saturday to review border security. Across the region villagers huddled in makeshift bunkers while police ordered non-essential traffic off roads, an AFP reporter said. Reporting from New Delhi, Al Jazeera’s Sohail Rahman said residents in Uri, 50km from Poonch, were moved to safer areas due to the heavy shelling from Pakistan along the LoC. Separately, a police official in Rawalakot, speaking to Al Jazeera on condition of anonymity, said that a man had been wounded and three homes destroyed in the Indian shelling overnight.
A top Indian minister said on Saturday the government would not share proof that “a very large number” of armed fighters were killed in air strikes inside Pakistan this week. While Pakistan has denied any casualties in the attack, some Indian opposition leaders also asked the government to share evidence of the strikes. India’s Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s top lieutenants, said “no security agencies ever share operational details”.