Violent clashes between India and Pakistan have left at least six civilians and two soldiers dead in the disputed mountainous region of Kashmir, officials said on Saturday.
Fighting reportedly resumed late on Friday night as Pakistani troops reportedly launched mortar shells along border towns in Kashmir, killing a mother and two siblings and critically wounding their father. Kashmir is split by the Line of Control (LoC) which divides it between India and Pakistan, though both countries claim the region in its entirety for themselves.
Pakistani military says two of their soldiers were killed during an exchange with India in Kashmir on Friday, and that Indian fire killed a young boy and wounded three other people, destroying several houses in the process. They added that heavily armed Indian troops “indiscriminately targeted border villagers” along the Line of Control.
Tensions between the two nuclear countries have been steadily rising over the last few weeks, after a suicide bomber collided with a truck carrying Indian soldiers in Kashmir on Feb. 14, killing at least 40 people. The militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad claimed responsibility, and last week, India launched an air strike at what they believed to be the camp Jaish-e-Mohammad camp.
Then, on Wednesday, Pakistani military shot down an Indian fighter jet and detained its pilot, but they returned him Friday evening in a so-called "peace gesture."
The pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, revealed that he ate sensitive documents to keep them from falling into his captors' hands after fleeing locals who chased him when he parachuted down from his plane's wreckage.
India and Pakistan have fought three wars over Kashmir since their independence from British rule in 1947. Now, world leaders are scrambling to prevent a fourth amid rising tensions between the two countries.
The current violence marks the most serious escalation of the long-simmering conflict since 1999, when Pakistan’s military sent a ground force into Indian-controlled Kashmir, the same year an Indian fighter jet shot down a Pakistani naval aircraft, killing all 16 on board.
Meanwhile, residents of Kashmir describe the experience of feeling “homeless" in their own land. Many have fled to relatives' homes or government-run bunkers.
“These battles are fought on our bodies, in our homes and fields, and we still don’t have anything in our hands. We are at the mercy of these soldiers,” said Mohammed Akram, a resident of Indian-controlled Kashmir.