Kashmir clash kills six: Mother and two children are killed by Pakistani mortar blast as Indian troops fire back amid growing tension between nuclear nations

Saturday, March 2, 2019
By Paul Martin

Shell fired by Pakistani soldiers hit home with mortar in Poonch region of Kashmir, killing three last night
Comes after Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman crossed border at checkpoint into India last night
His capture by Pakistani forces after his plane was shot down sparked fierce military tension and fears of war
Islamabad said it would release him in a ‘peace gesture’ but the countries remain on high military alert

By DIANNE APEN-SADLER and TIM STICKINGS
DAILYMAIL.COM
2 March 2019

Soldiers from India and Pakistan have targeted each other along the volatile frontier in disputed Kashmir, killing at least six civilians and wounding four others, officials have said.

Fighting resumed overnight into dawn, leaving two siblings and their mother dead in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

The three died after a shell fired by Pakistani soldiers hit their home in Poonch region near the so-called Line of Control that divides the Himalayan territory between the two nuclear-armed rivals, police said.

The children’s father was critically wounded and has been hospitalised. It is not known which country the other three civilians originated from.

Pakistan’s military also says two of its soldiers have been killed in an exchange of fire with Indian forces, marking the first fatalities for Pakistani troops since Wednesday.

Tensions have been running high since Indian aircraft crossed into Pakistan on Tuesday, carrying out what India called a pre-emptive strike against militants blamed for a February 14 suicide bombing in Indian-controlled Kashmir that killed 40 Indian troops.

Pakistan retaliated, shooting down a MiG-21 fighter jet on Wednesday and detained its pilot, who was returned to India on Friday in a peace gesture.

Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman revealed that he ate sensitive documents so they would not fall into his captors’ hands ahead of his release at the Wagah border yesterday.

Pakistan’s PM called the handover of the pilot a ‘peace gesture’, intended to defuse military tensions between the nuclear-armed nations.

Thousands of flag-waving supporters gathered at the border to welcome him home but crowds had dwindled by nightfall as the handover dragged on for hours without explanation.

Wing Commander Varthaman has been praised for his stoic professionalism after he fired warning shots as locals went after him on the ground in Kashmir on Wednesday.

He parachuted from his burning fuselage and then fled the locals to eat secret documents and destroy military evidence, the Washington Post has revealed.

Shortly before 9.30pm Indian time (4pm GMT) yesterday he finally appeared at the border checkpoint escorted by military officers and crossed the frontier into India.

As Islamabad released him they also published another video of the pilot, in which he apparently praised his ‘very professional’ Pakistani military captors, who had rescued him from a mob.

Despite the move to de-escalate the crisis both sides fired barrages of shells across the frontier today, with reports of attacks on Indian police officers in the province.

The pilot finally appeared after darkness had fallen on Friday evening, crossing the border accompanied by a Red Cross representative, before he was driven away again in a convoy.

In a brief statement after his release the Indian Air Force, who greeted him on his return, said they were ‘happy to have him back’.

‘Wing Commander Abhinandan he has just been returned to us as per the standard operating procedure of the IAF,’ they said.

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