Kashmir villagers flee amid Pakistan-India gunfire; 1 killed

AP News
Posted: Aug 14, 2015 7:49 AM
Kashmir villagers flee amid Pakistan-India gunfire; 1 killed

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan and India traded heavy gunfire on Friday, killing one person and forcing villagers in divided Kashmir to flee to safety even as the Pakistani president renewed his offer of talks with India to resolve the issue of the disputed region.

A Pakistani woman was killed and her two daughters and husband were wounded when an Indian mortar struck their home in the Nezapir sector of the divided region, the Pakistani military said.

The two nuclear-armed archrivals have a history of uneasy relations and regularly exchange fire over the disputed boundary, the latest coming as Pakistan celebrated Independence Day.

Pakistan won independence from Britain on Aug. 14, 1947, and marks the date each year with rallies and other celebrations.

In a televised speech on Friday, Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain said his nation believes in "peaceful co-existence" with India, though it would not comprise if its defense and security came under threat.

"We want to resolve all outstanding issues, including Kashmir, with India," he told a gathering of students, government and military officials in the capital, Islamabad.

Security was tight and troops guarded the Convention Center where Hussain, along with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, hoisted the national flag.

Since 1947, Pakistan and India have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir, which is claimed by both countries. The region is divided into sectors and there is a Line of Control that separates Pakistan-controlled Kashmir from Indian-held Kashmir.

There was no immediate response from New Delhi on Hussain's offer or the report of Pakistani casualties in the latest exchange.

On Thursday, Islamabad accepted an invitation from India for a bilateral security meeting on August 23. It was unclear if the Kashmir issue would be brought up at that meeting.

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Earlier Friday, the Pakistani military said "unprovoked shooting" came from the Indian-held side of Kashmir, from Nezapir and Rawalakot sectors, and that Pakistani forces were responding.

Mohammad Ansar, a local police official in Pakistan's part of Kashmir said rockets and mortars fired by Indian were landing near villages in the two sectors since the morning hours and that terrified villagers were fleeing to safer places.

However, Indian army spokesman Lt. Col. Manish Mehta blamed Pakistan, saying the Pakistanis have been firing mortars, grenades and machine-guns at Indian positions in the Poonch sector "intermittently for the last five days."

"We've given them a befitting reply," he said, denouncing what he called "unprovoked, ceasefire violations" by Pakistan.


Associated Press Writers Aijaz Hussain from Srinagar, India, and Roshan Mughal from Muzaffarabad, Pakistan, contributed to this report.