Civilians, soldiers killed after India, Pakistan trade fire on Kashmir border

Indian forces battled with militants in Kashmir on Friday that left seven dead, while also exchanging fire with Pakistan along the troubled territory's Line of Control.

Early Saturday morning, Varthaman met immediate family members as well as several top officials of the Indian Air Force, the officials said.

A police official told AFP that Indian troops also surrounded a house in Handwara district of Kashmir after believing they had killed two militants inside.

Despite the truce violations, the two neighbors appeared to step back from the brink on Saturday after Islamabad returned a captured Indian pilot. "We know 200-300 terrorists were killed", he said, seeking to downplay a debate on whether Indian jets actually caused any significant damage.

On Thursday, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan announced the release of Varthaman, calling his move a "peace gesture".

Tensions have escalated between India and Pakistan after the February 14 Pulwama attack claimed by Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).

Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomed Abhinandan's return, saying the nation is proud of his courage.

Since overnight Friday, a total of at least six civilians have been killed on both sides of Kashmir.

Pakistan and India have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir since their independence from British rule in 1947.

The statement added that "the climate of jingoism" obscured the truth that the principle victims of such conflict were Kashmiris, and it led to "the erosion of democracy including the freedom of expression and dissent".

In the heavily edited video distributed by the Pakistani military just before his release, he praised the professionalism of the Pakistani army and criticized Indian media for creating war hysteria.

Now various reports have identified the F-16 pilot as Wing Commander Shahaz-ud-Din of No 19 Squadron, which belongs to Pakistan Air Force's (PAF) F-16 Squadron.

Pakistan is unlikely to clear the air over its Wing Commander Shahzaz Ud Din, who has reportedly died after the dogfight with Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthman's MiG 21 Bison on February 27.

Pakistan also tried to target Indian military installation the next day. "India had failed to protect the Pakistani prisoner", Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qurehsi said. India has the strength to change the meaning of words in the dictionary.

Describing Azhar as "our enemy", he said, "We know what kind of a person he is".

Nevertheless, Pakistan retaliated on Wednesday with its own aerial mission.

  • Tracy Klein