Pakistan, Feb 27 (AP/UNB) — Pakistani police say mortar shells fired by Indian troops from across the frontier in the Himalayan region of Kashmir have struck homes, killing six civilians and wounding several others amid increasing tensions between the two South Asian nuclear rivals.
Local police official Mohammad Altaf says six people, including children, were killed Wednesday in Kotli village in Pakistan's part of Kashmir, which is split between Pakistan and India and claimed by both in its entirety.
Pakistani and Indian troops deployed in Kashmir often trade fire.
The latest civilian casualties came a day after tensions escalated sharply following a pre-dawn airstrike by India that New Delhi said targeted a terrorist training camp in northwest Pakistan.
Pakistan says Indian warplanes dropped bombs near the town of Balakot but there were no casualties.
Islamabad, Feb 26 (AP/UNB) —India says Pakistani soldiers are firing mortar shells and small-arms fire along the boundary separating Pakistan's and India's sector of control in the disputed region of Kashmir.
Lt. Col. Devender Anand, an Indian army spokesman, says Pakistani troops are carrying out an "unprovoked" violation of the 2003 cease-fire along the so-called Line of Control by firing on Tuesday evening at the Nowshera, Poonch and Akhnoor sectors.
Anand said Indian soldiers are "strongly and befittingly" responding to the multiple Pakistani attacks along the highly militarized de-facto frontier.
Pakistan's army did not immediately comment on India's claim. Both countries regularly accuse one another of initiating skirmishes.
Shakir Ahmed, a resident of Poonch in Indian-controlled Kashmir, said people were hearing loud sounds of shelling. He says "people are aftarid; it's getting dark. We pray it doesn't escalate into war."
Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan has denounced Indian statements that its fighter jets hit a militant camp in Pakistani town of Balakot as "fictitious."
Khan's remark came after a meeting of the country's National Security Committee on Tuesday, hours after Pakistan said Indian aircraft dropped bombs on a deserted wooded area causing no casualties. India, however, says it killed a "very large number" of militants.
Khan says that "once again, the Indian government has resorted to a self- serving, reckless and fictitious claim" and added that the statements from India were "for domestic consumption" in the run-up to elections.
He says India risks "putting regional peace and stability at grave risk" and summoned a meeting of the Parliament for Wednesday.
According to the statement, Khan said that "India has committed uncalled for aggression to which Pakistan shall respond at the time and place of its choosing."
China, a close Pakistani ally, is calling for restraint from both Islamabad and New Delhi to prevent a larger crisis.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters that it was "conducive to peace and stability in South Asian for the two sides to maintain a good relationship and good communication."
Lu says China hopes "both India and Pakistan can exercise restraint and take actions that will help stabilize the situation in the region and help to improve mutual relations."
Referring to India's claim that its airstrike targeted terrorists, Lu said combatting terrorism "is a global issue and a global challenge. It requires cooperation between countries."
India says it struck the biggest training camp of Jaish-e-Mohammad, a group that claimed to have carried out the Feb. 14 suicide bomb attack on Indian troops in Kashmir.
In 2017, China joined several nations to declare the Pakistan-based group and another one, Lashkar-e-Taiba, as terrorist organizations, a move praised by India and the U.S. However, Beijing has blocked India's attempts to have Jaish-e-Mohammad leader Azhar Masood listed as a terrorist by the United Nations.
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi says his country is in "safe hands," hours after India carried out an airstrike inside Pakistani-controlled territory.
Modi, commenting on the early Tuesday strike, says that "today is a day to pay homage to India's brave hearts," — an apparent reference to 40 Indian soldiers killed in Feb. 14 suicide bombing in India-controlled Kashmir.
Modi spoke to a rally of former soldiers in the northern state of Rajasthan.
He says: "I vow that I will not let the country bow down."
The strike comes as India pressed on with its crackdown against Kashmiri leaders and activists seeking the end of Indian rule over its section of the divided territory. So far, India has arrested 400 in the campaign.
The crackdown has mainly targeted Jama'at-e-Islami, Kashmir's largest religious-political group that also espouses the right to self-determination for the Himalayan region.
Pakistan's President Arif Alvi says India has created "hysteria" in the wake of this month's attack on Indian troops in the disputed Kashmir region.
Addressing an international conference on media and conflict, Alvi on Tuesday warned that rhetoric "can lead to war." He did not address an overnight incursion by Indian fighter jets. India says the jets struck a terrorist training camp, killing a large number of militants. Pakistan says there were no casualties.
Jaish-e-Mohammad, a militant group based in Pakistan, claimed the Feb, 14 attack. But Pakistan has denied any involvement in the bombing, which it says was planned and executed "indigenously."
Alvi warned Tuesday that "we know how to defend ourselves."
India says the airstrike it launched in Pakistan killed a "very large number" of militants, trainers and commanders in the group that carried out a deadly suicide bombing against Indian troops in the disputed territory earlier this month.
Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale says India struck "the biggest training camp" of Jaish-e-Mohammad in the Balakot region early Tuesday.
Tensions have soared between India and Pakistan since the Feb. 14 bombing, which killed 40 Indian troops and was the deadliest such attack since the Kashmir insurgency erupted in 1989. Pakistan has insisted it had nothing to do with the attack, but has vowed to respond to any Indian military operation against it.
Pakistan says the airstrike early Tuesday caused no casualties.
A junior minister in India says the country launched an airstrike in Pakistan targeting "terror camps," an apparent response to a suicide attack earlier this month that killed 40 Indian troops in the disputed territory.
Gajendra Singh Shekhawat tweeted Tuesday that the air force "carried out aerial strike early morning today at terror camps across the LoC and Completely destroyed it." The Line of Control separates Pakistani and Indian forces in Kashmir.
Pakistan said earlier that Indian aircraft crossed into its territory and dropped bombs "in haste" near Balakot, on the edge of Pakistani-ruled Kashmir. It said there were no casualties.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hosted the Cabinet Committee on Security Tuesday. No statement was issued after the meeting, but Human Resources Minister Prakash Javadekar told reporters: "This was a necessary step by the air force. The whole country is behind the armed forces."
Tensions have soared between the two nuclear-armed rivals since the Feb. 14 attack on Indian troops, which was claimed by the Jaish-e-Mohammad militant group. It was the deadliest such attack since the Kashmir insurgency began in 1989. Both countries claim Kashmir in its entirety and have gone to war twice over it.
Pakistan's military spokesman tweeted that Indian aircraft crossed into Pakistan and then "released payload in haste" but says there were casualties.
Maj. Gen Asif Ghafoor said the Indian "aircrafts" crossed early Tuesday into the Pakistan-controlled Muzafarabad sector of Kashmir. He said Pakistan scrambled fighter jets and before turning back, the Indian jets dropped their payloads near Balakot, on the edge of Pakistani-ruled Kashmir.
There has been no comment from India.
The incursion could have been in retaliation for a deadly Feb. 14 suicide bombing in India's half of Kashmir that killed at least 40 troops. The Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad claimed responsibility. The bomber who made a video before the attack was a resident of Indian Kashmir.
Pakistan and India both lay claim to a united Kashmir.
Peshawar, Feb 26 (AP/UNB) — Pakistan says India launched an airstrike on its territory early Tuesday that caused no casualties, while India said it targeted a terrorist training camp in a pre-emptive strike that killed a "very large number" of militants.
The overnight raid was the latest escalation between the nuclear-armed rivals since a deadly militant attack in the disputed Kashmir region earlier this month killed more than 40 Indian soldiers. Pakistan has denied involvement in the attack but has vowed to respond to any Indian military operation against it.
The Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad claimed responsibility. The bomber, who made a video before the attack, was a resident of Indian Kashmir.
Pakistan's military spokesman, Maj. Gen Asif Ghafoor, said the Indian "aircrafts" crossed into the Muzafarabad sector of Kashmir, which is split between the two countries but claimed by each in its entirety. He said Pakistan scrambled fighters and the Indian jets "released payload in haste" near Balakot, on the edge of Pakistani-ruled Kashmir.
India's foreign secretary, Vijay Gokhale, told reporters in New Delhi that Indian fighter aircraft targeted Jaish-e-Mohammad camps in a pre-emptive strike after intelligence indicated another attack was being planned.
"Acting on intelligence, India early today stuck the biggest training camp of Jaish-e-Mohammed in Balakot," he said. "In this operation a very large number of Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and Jehadis being trained were eliminated."
Balakot police chief Saghir Hussain Shah told The Associated Press that he had sent teams to the area where the Indian bombs reportedly hit, which he described as a mostly deserted wooded area.
"There are no casualties, there are no damages on the ground because of the dropping of the bombs," he said.There was no immediate explanation for the differing accounts, but India and Pakistan routinely contradict the other.
The Feb. 14 attack in Indian-ruled Kashmir was the worst attack on Indian forces since the start of the 1989 insurgency in Kashmir and came as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is in the middle of a re-election campaign.
Insurgents have been demanding either outright independence or union with Pakistan. India routinely accuses Pakistan of arming and training militants who cross the mountainous Himalayan region. In the last year an increasingly bloody crackdown on insurgents in Indian-ruled Kashmir has escalated tensions in the troubled region.
Kashmir has been the cause of two previous wars between the uneasy neighbors. They fought a third war in 1979 over East Pakistan, which gained its independence with the help of India and became Bangladesh.
Pakistan has outlawed Jaish-e-Mohammed and seized its properties in south Punjab's Bawahalpur area, including religious schools and mosques. India has demanded that Jaish-e-Mohammad leader, Azhar Masood, be listed as a terrorist by the United Nations, but has been stymied by China.
Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi condemned Tuesday's incursion, saying New Delhi had "endangered" peace in the region for political gains.
"We are a responsible nation and our forces are capable to defend each every inch of our motherland," he told a local television channel.
Lt. Col. Devender Anand, an Indian army spokesman, said Pakistani soldiers attacked Indian positions along the disputed Kashmir border region overnight. He called the attack an "unprovoked" violation of the 2003 cease-fire. He said there were no casualties and refused to discuss the Indian incursion into Pakistan.
Residents of Chikhoti, on the Pakistan side of the Line of Control, said they heard the roar of Indian jets as they crossed overhead. They said they had been expecting an Indian response after the attack earlier this month.
"We built bunkers near our home years ago and we will use them if there is any attack from India in our area," said Mohammad Shafiq, 55.
Earlier this month, Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan authorized the armed forces to "respond decisively and comprehensively to any aggression or misadventure" by India, after New Delhi vowed a "jaw-breaking response" to the suicide bombing.
Pakistan said it was "not involved in any way, means or form" in the attack, which it said was "conceived, planned and executed indigenously." Pakistan vowed to help investigate the attack and to take action against anyone found to be using Pakistani soil for attacks on India. It also offered to hold a "dialogue" with India on all issues, including terrorism.
Dong Dang, Feb 26 (AP/UNB) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, grinning broadly and waving at a crowd gathered on a cold, rainy morning, stepped off his armored train Tuesday after a long ride that started in Pyongyang and wound through China to this Vietnamese border town ahead of his second nuclear summit with President Donald Trump.
Kim, dressed in his trademark dark Mao suit, shook hands with officials as Vietnamese troops in crisp, white uniforms and black boots stood at attention on a red carpet beneath large North Korean and Vietnamese flags at the Dong Dang railway station on the China-Vietnam border.
A crowd gathered along the road near the station to wave North Korean flags and bouquets of flowers as the North Korean leader stepped into a black limousine that was then surrounded by burly, crewcut bodyguards who ran alongside their leader as he left the station. Press reports speculate that Kim will be driven to Hanoi, the Vietnamese capital, ahead of his Wednesday meeting with Trump, but officials shared no details about the specifics of a summit that the world will be watching closely.
Trump was flying to Hanoi from Washington. Kim's arrival comes as Vietnamese officials scramble to finish preparations for a rushed summit that's meant to deal with one of Asia's biggest security challenges: North Korea's pursuit of a nuclear program that stands on the verge of viably threatening any target on the planet.
Although many experts are skeptical Kim will give up the nukes he likely sees as his best guarantee of continued rule, there was a palpable, carnival-like excitement among many in Hanoi as the final preparations were made for the meeting.
Officials in Hanoi said they only had about 10 days to prepare for the summit — much less than the nearly two months Singapore had before the first Trump-Kim meeting last year— but still vowed to provide airtight security for the two leaders.
"Security will be at the maximum level," Vietnamese Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Le Hoai Trung told reporters.
The ultra-tight security will be appreciated by North Korean authorities, who are extremely vigilant about the safety of Kim, the third member of his family to rule the North with absolute power. Kim's decision to take a train, not a plane, may have been influenced by the better ability to control security.
Vietnam is eager to show off its huge economic and development improvements since the destruction of the Vietnam War, but the country also tolerates no dissent and is able to provide the kind of firm hand not allowed by more democratic potential hosts.
Vietnam has announced an unprecedented traffic ban along a possible arrival route for Kim. The Communist Party's Nhan Dan newspaper quoted the Roads Department as saying the ban will affect the 169-kilometer (105-mile) stretch of Highway One from Dong Dang, on the border with China, to Hanoi.
There are high expectations for the Hanoi summit after a vague declaration at the first meeting in June in Singapore that disappointed many.
In a meeting with senior aides in Seoul, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said that the Trump-Kim talks would be a critical opportunity to achieve peace on the Korean Peninsula.
Moon, who met Kim three times last year and has lobbied hard to revive nuclear diplomacy between the U.S. and North Korea, is eager for a breakthrough that would allow him to push ambitious plans for inter-Korean engagement, including lucrative joint economic projects that are held back by U.S.-led sanctions against the North.
"If President Trump succeeds in dissolving the world's last remaining Cold War rivalry, it will become yet another great feat that will be indelibly recorded in world history," Moon said.
Trump, via Twitter, has worked to temper those expectations, predicting before leaving for Hanoi a "continuation of the progress" made in Singapore but adding a tantalizing nod to "Denuclearization?" He also said that Kim knows that "without nuclear weapons, his country could fast become one of the great economic powers anywhere in the World."
North Korea has spent decades, at great political and economic sacrifice, building its nuclear program, and there is widespread skepticism among experts that it will give away that program cheaply.
Srinagar, Feb 25 (AP/UNB) — Three rebels, a counterinsurgency police officer and an army soldier were killed Sunday during a gunbattle in Kashmir, officials said, as shops and businesses shut down to protest a sweeping and ongoing crackdown against activists seeking the end of Indian rule in the disputed region.
The fighting triggered large anti-India protests and clashes as hundreds of residents thronged the village of Turigam in the southern Kulgam area and barraged troops with stones. An army officer and two other soldiers were injured in the fighting, which was still raging later Sunday.
Government forces opened fire with shotguns and tear gas to quell the protesters, injuring at least half a dozen civilians, residents and emergency workers said.
Police and paramilitary soldiers also patrolled streets in Srinagar, the region's main city, and enforced a security lockdown in its downtown area in anticipation of protests and clashes.
Carrying automatic rifles and wearing riot gear, soldiers and police erected iron barricades and laid razor wire on roads and intersections to cut off neighborhoods.
The crackdown began Friday night. Police are mainly targeting Kashmir's largest political-religious group, Jama'at-e-Islami. The group is dedicated to the right to self-determination for the Himalayan region, which is divided between India and Pakistan but claimed by both in its entirety.
Indian authorities have so far arrested at least 400 Kashmiri leaders and activists, escalating fears among already wary residents that a sweeping crackdown could touch off renewed anti-India protests and clashes. They are detained in police stations and jails across Kashmir.
Among those arrested were Jama'at-e-Islami head Abdul Hamid Fayaz and Mohammed Yasin Malik, an influential pro-independence leader who heads the Jammu-Kashmir Liberation Front.
Sunday's strike was called by the Joint Resistance Leadership, or JRL, which comprises three top Kashmiri leaders, including Malik.
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, another JRL member, denounced the arrests and said India's latest crackdown would fail as "people won't give up their struggle for freedom."
"India is already at war with Kashmiris. Now they're warmongering with Pakistan. We again warn (Indian authorities) to de-escalate and talk as no force can push us into submission," Farooq said. "There's a going to be serious ramification, a reaction to this (crackdown). It'll force more youngsters to armed militancy."
The crackdown comes amid high tensions between India and Pakistan following the Feb. 14 suicide car bombing of a paramilitary convoy by a local Kashmiri militant. Forty Indian soldiers died in the attack.
India quickly blamed the attack on Pakistan and promised a "jaw-breaking response." Pakistan warned India against linking it to the attack without an investigation, and offered dialogue to resolve all issues, including Kashmir.
Residents fear the crackdown could be a prelude to a military strike by India against Pakistan or tinkering with Kashmir's special status in India's constitution. India's Supreme Court has yet to give its verdict on a petition against the special provision that it has been hearing for more than a year.
Indian authorities rushed about 10,000 additional paramilitary soldiers to the already highly militarized Kashmir Valley. Indian soldiers are ubiquitous in Kashmir and local residents make little secret of their fury toward the presence of the soldiers in the Himalayan region, calling them an occupying force.
State Gov. Satya Pal Malik said in a statement Sunday that the additional troops were deployed for India's general election, due in the next few months.
Referring to the crackdown, he said: "This is purely related to the (Feb. 14) attack. The response of security forces is guided solely by the need to counter both the impact and any further action that may be taken by terrorist groups who are still out to disrupt our country."
Rebels have been fighting since 1989 against Indian control in Kashmir.
About 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and ensuing crackdown. Most Kashmiris support the rebels' demand that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country, while also participating in civilian street protests against Indian control.