Pakistan says four soldiers killed by Indian troops in Kashmir
Indian army says it was responding to attack by Pakistani troops
Four Pakistani soldiers were killed on Monday when Indian and Pakistani soldiers exchanged gunfire in the divided Himalayan region of Kashmir, with each side blaming the other for the latest ceasefire violation.
Separately, at least five suspected militants were killed in a gun battle with Indian troops on Monday after they crossed into the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir from the Pakistani side of the territory, Indian officials said.
Pakistan's military said the slain soldiers were performing maintenance on communication lines in the border village of Kotli when they came under fire. It said the troops were on the Pakistani side of the boundary.
Pakistani troops returned fire, reportedly killing three Indian soldiers.
An Indian military official, however, blamed Pakistani soldiers for attacking Indian positions and claimed their counter-offensive killed seven Pakistani soldiers. The officer said Indian side did not suffer any casualties.
In the past, both countries have accused the other of initiating border skirmishes that have killed soldiers and civilians.
Also on Monday, fighting erupted between Indian troops and militants when soldiers intercepted heavily armed insurgents along the highly militarised de facto border that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan, said Col Rajesh Kalia, an Indian army spokesman.
Army officials said militants lobbed grenades and sprayed gunfire from automatic rifles in the fighting. They said soldiers suffered no casualties.
There was no independent confirmation of the gun battle, which occurred in the remote, mountainous and forested western Uri sector. No rebel group fighting against Indian rule since 1989 immediately issued any statement about the incident.
Rebel groups demand that Kashmir be united either under Pakistan or as an independent country. India accuses Pakistan of arming and training the rebels, which the latter denies.
Meanwhile, India's army chief on Monday warned Pakistan of "stronger action" and said the army will not allow anti-India activities to succeed in Kashmir.
Speaking to soldiers on India's Army Day, Gen Bipin Rawat repeated India's allegation that Pakistan's army was helping militants to sneak into Indian-controlled Kashmir along the Line of Control.
"We're using our might to teach them a lesson," he said. "If we are forced, then we may resort to other action by stepping up military offensive."
Anti-India sentiment runs deep in the region, and most people support the rebels' cause against Indian rule while also participating in civilian street protests against Indian control.
Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.
Updated: January 15, 2018 03:52 PM