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India, Pakistan exchange fire in Kashmir

Xinhua | Updated: 2013-08-10 20:24

SRINAGAR, Indian-controlled Kashmir - The armies of India and Pakistan exchanged fire across the line-of- control (LoC) in Kashmir, officials said Saturday.

The exchange of fire broke out Friday night and continued until Saturday morningalong the LoC in Poonch district, around 185 km southwest of Srinagar city, the summer capital of Indian- controlled Kashmir.

Indian army officials alleged Pakistani troops first targeted their forward posts, thereby forcing them to retaliate.

"The exchange started at 10:30 p.m. local time Friday and lasted until 04:30 a.m.Saturday," said a senior army official.

However, there was no report of any damage or casualty on the Indian side.

On Tuesday five Indian troops were killed and another wounded in a deadly ambush near Sarla in Poonch. India accused Pakistani troops of carrying out the cross-border attack, a charge Pakistan denied.

Though India and Pakistan spoke by hotline a day after the killings, the situation along LoC remained tense.

Indian Defense Minister A K Antony told Indian parliament the ambush was carried out by approximately 20 heavily armed militants along with persons dressed in Pakistan army uniforms. He later on retracted the statement saying Pakistan army was directly involved after India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) slammed the government for giving "clean chit" to Pakistan and absolving their army.

The issue of killings rocked Indian parliament with enraged lawmakers mostly from opposition disrupting the business of the house by creating noisy scenes.

The killings and skirmishes on LoC have come at a time when New Delhi and Islamabad are trying to normalize ties and resume talks.

LoC is a de facto border that divides Kashmir into Indian and Pakistani controlled parts.

New Delhi and Islamabad in 2003 agreed to observe a ceasefire along the international border and LoC in Kashmir. Though some violations have been reported on both sides, the ceasefire remains in effect.

Kashmir, the Himalayan region divided between India and Pakistan, is claimed by both in full. Since their independence from Britain in 1947, the two countries have fought three wars, two exclusively over Kashmir.

In January this year skirmishes between armies of the two nuclear-armed neighbors claimed lives of five troopers (two from India and three from Pakistan). Both countries blamed each other for violating the ceasefire.

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