India, Pakistan exchange fire in Kashmir, killing 9

The renewed fighting comes amid an ongoing lockdown in Kashmir that was put in place after India stripped the region of its semi-autonomy in early August. (File/AFP)
Updated 20 October 2019

India, Pakistan exchange fire in Kashmir, killing 9

  • Pakistan’s army later said that “unprovoked cease-fire violations” by Indian troops killed five civilians and one soldier
  • India and Pakistan have a long history of bitter relations over Kashmir

SRINAGAR, India: Pakistani and Indian soldiers traded fire in disputed Kashmir on Sunday, killing at least nine people on both sides, officials said.
The Indian military said Pakistani soldiers targeted an Indian border post and civilian areas along the highly militarized frontier in Kashmir early in the day, leaving two army soldiers and a civilian dead.
Col. Rajesh Kalia, an Indian army spokesman, said three Indian civilians were also injured in the Pakistani firing. Kalia called it an “unprovoked” violation of a 2003 cease-fire accord between India and Pakistan.
Pakistan’s army later said that “unprovoked cease-fire violations” by Indian troops killed five civilians and one soldier and wounded another three civilians and two troops across the highly militarized Line of Control that divides Kashmir between Pakistan and India.
The army said Indian troops targeted civilians in Jura, Shahkot and Nousehri sectors. It said Pakistani forces responded with heavy fire on Indian soldiers.
India and Pakistan have a long history of bitter relations over Kashmir, which is divided between the rivals but claimed by both in its entirety. The renewed fighting comes amid an ongoing lockdown in Kashmir that was put in place after India stripped the region of its semi-autonomy in early August.
Since then, soldiers from the two nations have regularly engaged in cross-border shelling and firing along their de facto frontier in Kashmir, where rebel groups are fighting for the territory to be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country. In the past, each side has accused the other of starting the hostilities in violation of the 2003 accord.
India accuses Pakistan of arming and training anti-India rebels and also helping them by providing gunfire as cover for incursions into the Indian side. Pakistan denies this, saying it offers only moral and diplomatic support to Kashmiris who oppose Indian rule.
Rebels have been fighting Indian rule since 1989. Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the armed uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.
On Aug. 5, India’s Hindu nationalist-led government stripped Kashmir of its semi-autonomous status and imposed a strict crackdown, sending in tens of thousands more additional troops to the region, which is already one of the highest militarized zones in the world. India has arrested thousands of activists and separatist leaders in the days leading up to and after the revoking of Kashmir’s special status.
More than two months later, the region remains under a communications blockade. Authorities have restored landline and some cellphone services, but the Internet remains suspended.


Afghanistan to free 900 more Taliban prisoners

Updated 8 min 51 sec ago

Afghanistan to free 900 more Taliban prisoners

KABUL: Afghan authorities plan to release 900 more Taliban prisoners Tuesday, as a rare cease-fire by the insurgents entered its third and last day.
The pause in fighting, which came into effect Sunday to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid Al-Fitr, was for the most part holding out across the country, officials said.
The government earlier responded to the Taliban’s cease-fire offer by announcing plans to release up to 2,000 insurgent prisoners.
On Monday they freed 100 people and will release another 900 on Tuesday, the government said, the biggest group of Taliban prisoners freed so far.
“There is a decision to release 900 today,” National Security Council spokesman Javid Faisal told AFP.
But the exact number could vary subject to legal procedures, he added.
The cease-fire, only the second of its kind in the 19-year-old conflict, has raised hopes of an extended truce that could pave the way for long-awaited peace talks between the Taliban and Afghan government.
President Ashraf Ghani has said his administration is ready to begin the negotiations, seen as key to ending the war in the impoverished country.
On Tuesday officials said the cease-fire, the country’s first initiated by the Taliban, had largely been observed.
The only other comparable pause in violence came over Eid in 2018, an olive branch offered by Ghani.
Violence in Afghanistan escalated after the Taliban signed a deal with Washington in February to withdraw all US forces by next year.
The agreement also stipulated the Afghan government would first release up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners and the militants would free about 1,000 national security personnel.
Prior to this week’s releases, Kabul had already freed about 1,000 Taliban inmates, while the insurgents had let go about 300 Afghan security forces captives.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has welcomed the cease-fire, and said the freed Taliban fighters should not return to the battlefield.