De-escalation delayed: India & Pakistan exchange shelling on Kashmir border, casualties reported

De-escalation delayed: India & Pakistan exchange shelling on Kashmir border, casualties reported
Just a day after an Indian pilot was freed from Pakistani captivity, offering hope for de-escalation, the two countries resumed shelling in Kashmir, killing a number of civilians on both sides, according to local authorities.

A 24-year-old woman and her two siblings were killed on Friday night near the Line of Control, a heavily militarized frontier that divides Pakistani and Indian parts of Kashmir. Another civilian was gravely injured in the shelling, NDTV reported, citing local police. 

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Meanwhile, on the Pakistani side of the line, Indian artillery fire killed a boy and wounded three people, according to a government official. He told AP that the neighbor’s forces were “indiscriminately targeting border villagers,” and added that Pakistani troops were “befittingly” responding to the Indian artillery barrage.

In total, at least five civilians and 2 soldiers were killed in the attack, Al Jazeera reported.

The deadly shelling came despite some signs of a de-escalation in the latest crisis. On Friday, Pakistan released a captured Indian pilot in what its prime minister called a “peace gesture.”

After a dogfight over Kashmir on Wednesday morning, India initially said that all of its pilots had returned safely, but Pakistan’s Information Ministry then released – and later deleted – footage showing the pilot blindfolded, with blood on his face.

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India then confirmed the loss of one of its MiG-21s and the capture of its pilot, but demanded that he be immediately released. It said that it had also foiled an attack by Pakistani warplanes over Kashmir, and shot down one Pakistani plane. Islamabad denies that any of its aircraft were shot down.

Pakistan and India have fought on several occasions over Kashmir since they gained independence from the British Empire in 1947. Each country controls a section of the territory, separated by one of the most militarized borders in the world, known as the Line of Control, which has seen frequent shelling and several short-term conflicts.

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