(AP) Pakistan and India traded accusations Sunday of violating the cease-fire in the disputed northern region of Kashmir, with Islamabad saying that India staged a rare raid across the line dividing the two sides' forces and killed one of its soldiers. India said its troops had fired into Pakistan to retaliate for shelling that destroyed a home.
The accusation of a border crossing resulting in military deaths is unusual in Kashmir, where a ceasefire has held between these two wary rivals for a decade. Tensions over the disputed region are never far from the surface, however, as the nuclear-armed nations have fought two full-scale wars over it.
The Pakistani military's public relations office said in a statement that another Pakistani soldier was critically wounded in the incident. They said troops were still exchanging gunfire after a raid crossed the line of control dividing the Indian and Pakistani sides of Kashmir in Haji Pir sector and raided a post called Sawan Patra, the military said.
The remote area where the incident occurred is up in Himalayan mountain peaks. The closest town of Bagh, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) away, is itself about 260 kilometers (160 miles) from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad.
Col. Brijesh Pandey, a spokesman for the Indian army in Kashmir, said that Pakistani troops initiated unprovoked firing and fired mortars and automatic weapons at Indian posts early Sunday morning. He said Pakistani shelling had destroyed a civilian home on the Indian side.
We retaliated only using small arms. We believe it was clearly an attempt on their part to facilitate infiltration of militants, Pandey said
India often accuses Pakistan of sending militants into the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir, often under cover of these types of skirmishes.
Mountainous Kashmir has been a flashpoint of violence between these two neighbors for decades. Both claim the entire region as their own, and the countries fought two full-scale wars over control of Kashmir and some minor skirmishes.
On Saturday, leaders of a Pakistan-based militant coalition held a rally in the city of Muzaffarabad near Kashmir, in which they pledged to continue the fight to gain control of the entire region.
The United Jihad Council is a coalition of 12 anti-India militant groups. Many of the groups were started with the support of the Pakistani government in the 1980s and 1990s to fight India for control of Kashmir. The rally was held to mark the Jan. 5, 1949 call by the United Nations for a referendum on Kashmir's fate.
A 2003 cease-fire ended the most recent round of fighting. Each side occasionally accuses the other of violating it by lobbing mortars or shooting across the LOC.
A number of Pakistani civilians were wounded in November due to Indian shelling, and in October the Indian army said Pakistani troops fired across the disputed frontier, killing three civilians.
But accusations that one side's ground forces actually crossed the LOC are rarer.
Associated Press writer Zarar Khan in Islamabad, Roshan Mughal in Muzaffarabad, and Aijaz Hussain in Srinagar, India, contributed to this report.