The Indian Army on Monday called off a search for suspected Pakistani militants a day after its forces gunned down five alleged suicide bombers who tried to cross into India through a de facto border that divides Kashmir between the two countries, officials said.
The army foiled the infiltration bid along the Line of Control (LoC) in the densely forested Uri sector of north Kashmir, killing all five suspects who had planned major attacks on military installations in the disputed Himalayan region, defense spokesman Col. Rajesh Kalia said.
“A search operation launched a day before to sanitize the shooting site was called off on Monday,” Kalia told BenarNews.
Authorities said they had determined that no other suspected infiltrators were at-large on the Indian of the border.
“Our alert soldiers engaged the infiltrators in a firefight despite adverse weather on Saturday night. All five militants were eliminated in the exchange of fire that lasted over 40 hours,” Indian Army Brig. Y.S. Ahlawat told BenarNews, adding that the slain militants were Pakistani suicide bombers.
Indian forces recovered weapons from the slain militants including body-fitting improvised explosive devices with timing mechanisms, he said.
“It seems they were planning major terror strikes in Kashmir, like the one on the army’s administrative base in Uri last September,” Ahlawat said.
On Sept. 18, 2016, four suspected Pakistani militants stormed the Indian Army base in Uri, killing 17 Indian soldiers before being shot dead.
Saturday’s infiltration bid was the fifth such attempt made by Pakistani army-backed militants in six days, the army said, adding that 12 Pakistani nationals and an Indian soldier have been killed during these operations. The army, however, did not identify any of these alleged Pakistani citizens.
Tensions have been running high between the two rival nations, which lay claim to the insurgency-torn region of Kashmir in its entirety, ever since the Indian Army accused Pakistani troops of beheading two of its soldiers along the LoC on May 1.
A suspected Pakistani militant was killed along the LoC in north Kashmir’s Gurez sector on Friday, the army said.
Indian security forces on Thursday claimed to have killed six suspected Pakistani militants while foiling a series of infiltration attempts during a 48-hour span along the border in Kashmir, which has been grappling with a separatist insurgency that has claimed over 70,000 lives since the late 1980s.
India squarely blames Pakistan for backing and funding armed separatism in Kashmir. But Pakistan denies this charge, saying the decades-old violence in the Muslim-majority region is a result of India’s oppressive rule.
Pakistan blames India for unprovoked aggression
On Monday, Pakistan said that “unprovoked shelling and firing” by Indian forces in Poonch district along the LoC claimed the lives of two Pakistani civilians, who were identified as Waqar Younis and Asad Ali.
Three other Pakistani citizens were also injured in the firing, Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper said, quoting officials.
“Without any provocation Indian troops started shelling on Pakistani posts and also targeted civilian areas. The Pakistan army responded effectively causing casualties and heavy damage to the Indian posts along [the] LoC,” Pakistan’s senior superintendent of police, Chaudhry Zulqarnain Sarfraz, told Dawn.
Pakistan summoned the Indian deputy high commissioner over the cross-border aggression on Monday.
“Indian top official was summoned to condemn LoC violations and civilian killings,” Nafees Zakaria, a spokesman for Pakistan’s foreign office, said on Twitter.
“The deliberate targeting of civilians is highly condemnable and contrary to human dignity and international human rights and humanitarian laws,” Zakaria said.