Pakistan has shot down two Indian warplanes over the disputed territory of Kashmir, one day after New Delhi launched an airstrike against a jihadist militant camp in its neighbouring country, an army spokesperson said today.
One plane went down on each side of the border, and the Indian pilot who crashed in Pakistani Kashmir was captured by troops, Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor said.
Police officials in Indian-occupied Kashmir said that two Indian pilots and a civilian had died after an Indian air force plane crashed in Kashmir, but did not confirm if the plane had been shot down by Pakistani forces.
Indian officials said three Pakistani jets had also entered Indian airspace, before being intercepted and forced turned back.
India’s Border Security Force (BSF) soldiers patrol along the fenced border with Pakistan in Ranbir Singh Pura sector near Jammu on Tuesday
Tensions between the two nuclear armed rivals have been elevated since a suicide car bombing by Pakistan-based militants in Indian-controlled Kashmir killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary police on February 14.
The risk of conflict rose dramatically after India launched an air strike on what it said was a training base for the Jaish-e-Mohammed jihadist militant group that claimed credit for the suicide attack in Pakistan’s Balakot region on Tuesday.
But while India said a large number of JeM fighters had been killed, Pakistani officials said the Indian airstrike was a failure and inflicted no casualties.
The Indian air force has ordered Kashmir’s main airport in Srinagar along with at least three others in neighboring states to be closed because of the two incidents, an official said.
On Tuesday evening, Pakistan began shelling using heavy calibre weapons in 12 to 15 places along the de facto border in Kashmir, known as the Line of Control (LoC), a spokesman for the Indian defence forces said.
‘The Indian Army retaliated for effect and our focused fire resulted in severe destruction to five posts and number of casualties,’ the spokesman said.
Indian jets launched strikes on a militant camp in Pakistan territory with New Delhi claiming the raid killed a ‘very large’ number of fighters preparing an attack. Footage has emerged purportedly showing jets in the sky overnight
Five Indian soldiers suffered minor wounds in the shelling that ended on Wednesday morning, he added.
‘So far there are no (civilian) casualties but there is panic among people,’ said Rahul Yadav, the deputy commissioner of the Poonch district where some of the shelling took place.
‘We have an evacuation plan in place and if need arises we will evacuate people to safer areas,’ he said.
Local officials on the Pakistani side said at least four people had been killed and seven wounded, though it was unclear if the casualties were civilian or military.
India has also continued its crackdown on suspected militants operating in Kashmir, a mountainous region that both countries claim in full but rule in part.
On Wednesday, security forces killed two Jaish militants in a gun battle, Indian police said.
Pakistan has promised to retaliate to Tuesday’s air strikes, and security across India has been tightened. The two countries have fought three wars since independence from British colonial rule in 1947 and went to the brink a fourth in 2002 after a Pakistani militant attack on India’s parliament.
Tuseday’s airstrikes took place in the Balakot region in Pakistani territory just days after a suicide bomb attack in Indian Kashmir
Warplanes pounded a camp belonging to Jaish-e-Mohammad, the group that claimed a suicide bombing that killed dozens of troops in Indian Kashmir, the country’s Foreign Secretary claimed. Pictured: Trees damaged by the raid Tuesday
In Mumbai, India’s financial capital, there was a visible increase in security levels for a city that has suffered numerous militant attacks in the past.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke separately with the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan and urged them to avoid ‘further military activity’ following Tuesday’s airstrike.
‘I expressed to both ministers that we encourage India and Pakistan to exercise restraint, and avoid escalation at any cost,’ Pompeo said in a statement on Wednesday.
‘I also encouraged both ministers to prioritize direct communication and avoid further military activity,’ he said.
Both China and the European Union have also called for restraint. On Wednesday New Zealand’s foreign minister Winston Peters also voiced concern over the escalation in tensions.