SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Two Indian soldiers have been killed in fighting with Pakistani soldiers and suspected militants along the volatile frontier in Indian-controlled Kashmir, officials said Saturday.
An army officer said militants overnight ambushed an Indian army patrol, killing one, while Pakistani soldiers provided covering fire near the Machil sector along the Line of Control dividing the disputed region between India and Pakistan.
The officer, speaking on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to media, said that militants crossed over from Pakistani-controlled Kashmir while taking advantage of rugged terrain and thick foliage. He said Indian soldiers retaliated and killed an insurgent in what he described as "face-to-face combat."
He said the militants "mutilated" the body of the Indian soldier before fleeing to the Pakistani side.
There was no independent confirmation of the incident.
In a strongly worded statement, the Indian army called the soldier's mutilation a "despicable act."
"This barbarism is a true reflection which pervades official and non-official organizations across the border," the statement said. "This act will invite an appropriate response."
Shortly after, cross-border clashes erupted at several posts in the Machil sector, killing another Indian soldier.
In Pakistan, the military in a statement said that India on Saturday again resorted to unprovoked firing along the Line of Control and that the soldiers from the two countries were still exchanging fire. It did not say Pakistan suffered any casualties.
The Indian army in a statement on Saturday night said it had "destroyed four Pakistani posts in a massive fire assault in the Keran sector" in Kashmir.
The statement also said the Indian army had inflicted heavy casualties on the Pakistani side, but gave no details.
Indian and Pakistani troops in recent weeks have frequently exchanged cross-border fire, causing casualties on both sides. They have blamed each other for initiating it.
While the Line of Control is guarded by the Indian and Pakistani armies and divides the two parts of Kashmir, each country also has a separate paramilitary border force guarding the lower-altitude frontier separating Indian-controlled Kashmir and the Pakistani province of Punjab.
Troops from the two countries have regularly traded fire since last month, when India said it had carried out "surgical strikes" against militants in the Pakistani-controlled part of Kashmir. Pakistan dismissed the claim and called on India to produce evidence to back it up.
On Thursday, each nation expelled a diplomat amid the escalating tensions.
Two of the three wars between India and Pakistan since 1947 have been fought over their competing claims to Kashmir. Each has administered part of Kashmir since 1947. India accuses Pakistan of training and arming anti-Indian militants and helping them infiltrate into the Indian side.
Pakistan denies this, saying it only offers moral and diplomatic support to the militants and to Kashmiris who oppose Indian rule.
Associated Press writer Munir Ahmed in Islamabad, Pakistan, contributed to this report.