India Attacks Pakistani Posts in Kashmir

India's army destroyed nearly a dozen Pakistani military posts Monday across the cease-fire line in the disputed Kashmir territory.

The shelling came after a 10-month calm in the tense border region and one day before Secretary of State Colin Powell was scheduled to arrive in New Delhi from Pakistan to ease hostilities between the two nuclear neighbors.

There was no apparent provocation for Monday's attack. But Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee last week hinted at tough action to fight the Islamic insurgency that has sapped Kashmir since 1989, claiming at least 30,000 lives.

"We have fired heavily on Pakistani positions," said Brig. P.C. Das, an army spokesman based in Nagrota near Jammu-Kashmir's winter capital of Jammu. Das said the shelling occurred in the frontier areas of Akhnoor and Mendar, and that 11 posts were hit.

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, killing one woman and injuring 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 confirmed that the Indians were shelling Pakistani frontier positions. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there was no word of any damage.

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.

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

Apart from artillery, Indian soldiers fired rockets, mortars, flame throwers, grenade launchers and machine guns during the operation, Das said.

"We have completely destroyed their posts," Das said.

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

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

The Indian attack threatened to escalate tensions between the South Asian neighbors. Their dispute over Kashmir has forced them into two of their three wars over the past five decades.

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.

The fighting is part of a recent surge between the militants, who have been battling since 1989 to separate Kashmir from India, and Indian security forces. The militants 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.

India says Pakistan arms, trains and funds Islamic militants based in Pakistan who move across the border into Indian-controlled Kashmir to carry out terrorist attacks.

Pakistan says that it provides only moral, not material, aid to the guerrillas.

More than a dozen militant groups have fought Indian security forces since 1989 in the Indian-held part of Kashmir, a Himalayan region divided with Pakistan. Human rights groups say more than 60,000 people have died in the 12-year insurgency, which aims to separate Kashmir from India.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.