At least nine civilians have been killed and over 50 have been injured as overnight clashes between Indian and Pakistani troops along the border in Kashmir continued on Monday, according to media reports. Both nations claimed the casualties had stemmed from "unprovoked" hostilities from the other side.
Indian officials said that shelling by Pakistani troops had killed five villagers, including one child and injured 35 people living near the disputed border in Jammu district in the northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, according to the Press Trust of India, or PTI, an Indian news agency.
“Pakistani Rangers resorted to heavy and unprovoked firing and shelling of mortars on 10 border outposts and civilian areas along international border in Arnia belt of Jammu district from 10 p.m. last night,” a spokesperson for the Border Security Force, or BSF, told PTI on Monday.
The Pakistani army, however, reportedly said that four Pakistani civilians, including two children, were killed in villages along the border when Indian soldiers resorted to “unprovoked firing” across the Line of Control, or LoC, which is the de facto border in Kashmir.
“Pakistan Rangers have effectively responded to BSF fire,” Pakistan’s Inter Services Public Relations said in a statement, according to Dawn, a Pakistani daily.
On the Indian side, officials have started evacuating tens of thousands of people from areas near the border to underground bunkers and government shelters, Associated Press, or AP, reported. The latest incident of cross-border firing comes less than two months after more than 15,000 villagers -- in Indian- as well as Pakistani-controlled territory -- were reportedly forced to flee after violent clashes erupted between the armies of the two countries.
The two nations have fought three wars over Kashmir since they gained independence from British rule in 1947. Both India and Pakistan maintain a heavy military presence along the LoC since a truce was reached in 2003. However, frequent violations of the tenuous cease-fire have been reported in the region, with each side accusing the other of firing first.