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Pakistan: Indian fire kills 2 Pakistani soldiers in Kashmir

ISLAMABAD, (AP): Pakistan on Thursday said two of its soldiers were killed in an “unprovoked” attack when India fired across the border of the disputed region of Kashmir, while India said it had carried out a “surgical strike” against terrorists, in an exchange that marks an escalation in tensions between the uneasy and nuclear-armed neighbors.

Pakistan dismissed Indian military reports that it had carried out strikes against “terrorist launch pads” inside the Pakistan-controlled part of Kashmir.

Tensions, which are always simmering between India and Pakistan, spiked after an attack earlier this month on an Indian military base in Indian-ruled Kashmir. India accused Pakistan of sending militants belonging to the outlawed Jaish-e-Mohammed group, headquartered in Pakistan, to carry out the attack. Pakistan denied the charge.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been under pressure to respond to the attack on its military base.

Pakistan, meanwhile, has lashed out at India over its heavy-handed clampdown in Indian-controlled Kashmir following the killing of a militant Kashmiri leader two months ago. Following the July 8 killing of Burhan Wani by Indian soldiers, violent demonstrations have broken out against Indian rule in Kashmir. A curfew has been in place and an estimated 80 civilians have been killed by Indian troops.

The border shooting follows a day after Pakistan said India will “disintegrate” when Kashmir gains independence.

In a statement Thursday, the Pakistan military said its soldiers “befittingly responded to Indian unprovoked firing” — implying they returned fire— along the Kashmir border, near the villages of Bhimber, Kel and Lipa.

Talking to reporters in New Delhi Thursday, Lt. Gen. Ranbir Singh, director general of military operations for the Indian Army, said “surgical strikes” were carried out in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir late Wednesday.

“Significant casualties were caused to the terrorists and those who support them,” Singh said, adding that the operations were now over and that India had no further plans for more such strikes. He said that he had shared details of the strikes with his Pakistani counterpart. He gave no further details on the nature of the strikes.

The Pakistani military however flatly denied any “surgical strikes” had occurred.

“There has been no surgical strike by India, instead there had been cross-border fire initiated and conducted by India,” a Pakistani military statement said.

Pakistan and India often trade fire in Kashmir, a Himalayan region that is split between the two countries and claimed by both in its entirety.

::Members of the Pakistani Civil Society Forum chant slogans during a demonstration for peace and condemning the raising tension between Pakistan and India, in Lahore, Pakistan, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016. Pakistan’s defense minister says its nuclear-armed rival India will “disintegrate” when Kashmir gains independence. Khawaja Muhammad Asif said that Pakistan will continue to extend moral support to the people of the disputed Himalayan region, which is split between Pakistani and Indian control but claimed in its entirety by both. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)

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