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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 March 2019

Two Indian jets shot down over disputed Kashmir, says Pakistan

Pakistan government: we have no intention of escalation

Pakistan says it has shot down two Indian military aircraft on its side of disputed Kashmir on Wednesday in a dramatic escalation that has sparked fears of an all-out conflict between nuclear-armed neighbours.

The spokesman for the Pakistan Armed Forces, Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, announced the news and said that they had arrested one of the pilots.

He said that one of the aircraft had fallen in Pakistani-held Kashmir while the other fell on the Indian side of the heavily militarised Line of Control that separates the two countries.

The downing of the Indian jets came hours after Pakistani planes carried out strikes across the Line of Control.

The Foreign Ministry said the sortie was “a demonstration of Pakistan's right to defend itself”.

“We have no intention of escalation, but are fully prepared to do so if forced into that paradigm,” the ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.

India says that its own fighter jets on patrol had confronted the Pakistani planes and forced them back across the border.

Then, Indian police said that an Indian jet had had crashed in Indian Kashmir, killing two pilots and a civilian. There has been no official response from India over Pakistan’s claims to have downed the jets.

Wednesday’s incidents – the worst escalation between the two countries in 40 years – comes after Indian jets carried out strikes against what it said was a training base of the militant group responsible for a bloody suicide bombing nearly two weeks ago.

Jaish-e-Mohammed has claimed responsibility for a bombing on February 14 that killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary forces. In response, India accused Pakistan of backing the group and vowed to take action.

It was India's first air strike on Pakistani soil since the neighbours fought a war in 1971. Neither side had nuclear weapons at the time.

Although Pakistan claims the Indian strikes on Tuesday caused no damage, it also said it would respond, sparking fears that the incident could escalate into a full conflict

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday morning said he spoke to India's Minister of External Affairs and Pakistan's Foreign Minister. "I expressed to both ministers that we encourage India and Pakistan to exercise restraint, and avoid escalation at any cost," he said.

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres is following the situation and called for “maximum restraint” by both sides, his spokeswoman Stephane Dujarric said on Tuesday.

Updated: February 27, 2019 12:39 PM

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