Twelve civilians killed in India, Pakistan border clashes

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Islamabad/Srinagar, Kashmir (dpa) – At least 12 civilians were killed overnight Friday as Indian and Pakistani troops exchanged fire at several points across their tense border, defence officials in both countries said.

It was the highest single-day toll since the current round of hostilities broke out between the nuclear-armed rivals in 2013.

Eight Pakistani villagers including a woman and a child fell victim to mortars and bullets fired by Indian troops from across the border near the eastern city of Sialkot, a military statement said.

Nearly 50 people, a majority of them women and children, were injured, the statement added.

In separate clashes across the de factor border in the disputed region of Kashmir, four Indian civilians including a woman were killed by Pakistani artillery, an Indian security official said.

Pakistan Rangers used automatic weapons and mortars to target India’s Border Security Force (BSF) position from midnight, the official added, seeking anonymity.

Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry in the capital Islamabad summoned Indian diplomats to protest the “unprovoked aggression,” as Army Chief Raheel Sharif called the firing cowardly in a visit to affected villages.

Footage on Pakistani television channels showed several houses destroyed by mortars, and walls pierced by bullets.

Several thousand people were shown fleeing their houses for safety, packed in crowded vehicles, on motorbikes and by foot.

Pakistan and India last week cancelled a scheduled meeting of their national security chiefs, which was aimed at lowering tensions after nearly 100 civilians and soldiers were killed on both sides in the past two years.

India and Pakistan accuse each other of violating a 2003 ceasefire agreement on Kashmir, a region each country administers half of, but claims in its entirety.

The two countries have fought three wars since gaining independence from Britain in 1947.

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