India says it shelled Pakistan positions in disputed Kashmir

Monday, October 15, 2001

Associated Press WriterJAMMU, India (AP) -- A senior army official said Indian forces shelled Pakistani military posts across the cease-fire line Monday in Kashmir, destroying 11 posts in an attack that ended 10 months of calm along the disputed border. Pakistan said a woman was killed and 25 people injured in the assault.

"We have fired heavily on Pakistani positions," Indian Brig. P.C. Das told The Associated Press. Speaking from the army base in Nagrota, near Jammu-Kashmir's winter capital of Jammu, Das said the shelling occurred in the frontier areas of Akhnoor and Mendar.

Das said Indian forces fired artillery, rockets, mortars, grenade launchers and machine guns during the operation.

In Islamabad, a Pakistani army spokesman said Indian forces were shelling Pakistani positions in the Phuklian sector, 18 miles from the border city of Sialkot, injuring one woman and 25 others.

The spokesman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, denied Indian claims that they destroyed 11 Pakistani posts. He accused India of targeting civilians.

Pakistani paramilitary rangers responded and "inflicted considerable damage" to Indian positions, he said. The two sides were still trading artillery fire in the Rawalakot sector, 100 miles south of Muzaffarabad.

A police official in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir, contacted by telephone from Islamabad, also confirmed that the Indians were shelling Pakistani positions.

Earlier, a Pakistani general officer at the army headquarters in Rawalpindi, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he checked all the reports and "no such incident happened."

In Washington, President Bush said he was looking into the report.

"I think it is very important that India and Pakistan stand down during our activities in Afghanistan, for that matter forever," Bush said.

The Indian offensive came while Secretary of State Colin Powell was in Pakistan to discuss issues related to Kashmir and the U.S.-led attack on the Taliban. Powell is scheduled to arrive in India's capital, New Delhi, on Tuesday evening.

"We have started punitive action. This follows a conscious decision," said Das, the brigadier-general staff of the Indian army's 16th corps. "This is part of the proactive approach adopted by Indian Army."

He added, "We have completely destroyed their posts."

Das said Pakistani soldiers had sneaked into Indian territory in Akhnoor on Monday night and damaged three power transformers.

Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had hinted last week that India would take tough action to stem violence by Pakistan-based Islamic insurgents who have fought since 1989 to separate Kashmir from India. The fighting has killed at least 30,000 people.

The Indian claim threatened to escalate tensions between the nuclear-armed South Asian neighbors. Their territorial dispute in Kashmir has led to two of the three wars India and Pakistan have fought in five decades.

India says Pakistan arms, trains and funds Islamic militants based in Pakistan who carry out terrorist attacks and strikes on Indian military bases in the Indian-ruled port of Kashmir.

Pakistan calls them "freedom fighters," says it has no control over their movement cross the border, and that it provides only moral, not material aid.

Das said a total of 11 Pakistani posts had been demolished in the two areas, along the Line of Control, the 1972 cease-fire line that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan.

Das said details of Pakistani casualties were not known. He said such attacks could be launched again.

"This action would be taken in future also if they make any attempt to push in infiltrators or plant improvised explosive devices in our territory," Das said.

Late last month, five Islamic guerrillas and two soldiers died in fighting near the village of Mendar, 135 miles northwest of Jammu, the army said.

Militants in Kashmir have stepped up their attacks since India and Pakistan failed to agree on a common approach to the Kashmir issue when their leaders held summit talks in July.

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