India and Pakistan trade gunfire in Kashmir region, 6 Pakistani and 3 Indian civilians dead



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ISLAMABAD — Indian and Pakistani border guards traded gunfire in the divided region of Kashmir, leaving nine civilians dead and another 63 wounded, authorities said Friday.

Each side blamed the other for "unprovoked firing and shelling" on homes after midnight near the disputed border.

A statement issued by the Pakistani army said six civilians were killed and 47 others, including 22 women and 11 children, were wounded after Indian attacks near the city of Sialkot. It said the villages of Kanganpur and Bajra Gari were the worst hit by the shelling overnight.

Villages near Sialkot, an industrial city close to the working boundary in Kashmir, often come under Indian fire.

Pakistani television footage showed damaged houses in Kanganpur. Villagers gathered in a lane looked on while grave diggers prepared for the burials of those killed.

Dharmendra Parikh, a top Indian Border Security Force official, said three Indian civilians were killed and 16 wounded after about a dozen border guard posts and some villages came under Pakistani fire starting around midnight.

Simrandeep Singh, an Indian administrator, said the firing targeted border posts and some villages in the R.S. Pura and Arnia sectors about 25 kilometers (15 miles) southwest of Jammu, the winter capital of India's Jammu-Kashmir state.

Tension has mounted between the two countries after talks between their national security advisers were called off because of disagreements related largely to Kashmir.

A cease-fire on the border has largely held since 2003, but gunbattles and border skirmishes are fairly common. Earlier this month, at least nine civilians were killed and scores injured.

Meanwhile, Pakistani army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif visited the paramilitary rangers' headquarters in Sialkot and commended the troops for their vigilance.

Gen. Sharif said that India has blatantly violated the ceasefire terrorized Pakistani civilians and disregarded international conventions and norms. In a statement, he called the Indian attack, "highly unprofessional, unethical, irresponsible and cowardly."

Pakistan's foreign office spokesman in a statement said the Indian high commissioner was summoned for a formal protest over the attack.

India and Pakistan have fought two wars over control of Kashmir. The Kashmir region is divided between the South Asian nations but claimed entirely by both.

India accuses Pakistan of arming and training insurgents fighting for Kashmir's independence from India or its merger with Pakistan, a charge Islamabad denies. More than 68,000 people have been killed in the violence.


Associated Press writer Aijaz Hussain in Srinagar, India, contributed to this report

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