Kashmiri tensions rise yet again as Pakistan India trade accusations over border attacks

Kashmiri tensions rise yet again as Pakistan India trade accusations over border attacks

ISLAMABAD - The Indian military on Sunday claimed to have killed several Pakistani attackers trying to cross the de facto border in Kashmir, as tensions ratcheted up in the disputed region and sent thousands of tourists fleeing.

Kashmir has surged back into the spotlight in recent days, just months after a deadly militant attack on an Indian paramilitary convoy claimed by a Pakistan-based group sparked cross-border air attacks.

The nuclear-armed rivals have controlled parts of the Himalayan region since the end of British colonial rule in the subcontinent in 1947. Both claim it in its entirety.

India has deployed at least 10,000 troops there in recent days, with media reports of a further 25,000 ordered to Kashmir. There were some 500,000 Indian security forces already based in the region.

The government has also introduced other security measures -- including a call to stock up food and fuel -- over terror threat claims.

Amid growing panic among residents with long queues outside petrol stations, food stores and cash machines, India and Pakistan traded tit-for-tat accusations.

The Indian army said Sunday it had foiled an attempt by a Pakistani team of army regulars and militants to cross the Line of Control, the de facto border, dividing Kashmir, killing "five to seven" attackers.

Pakistan denied the claims, describing them as "baseless" as it accused India of using cluster bombs against civilians, killing two people -- including a four-year-old boy -- and critically injuring 11 others.

New Delhi has denied the charge.

Tourists and students have been scrambling to leave Kashmir since the Jammu and Kashmir state government said they should leave "immediately" amid new intelligence about "terror threats" to a major Hindu pilgrimage in the region.

Britain and Germany have issued warnings against travel to the region.

But while the Indian military and the state government have highlighted the security risk, Kashmiri and opposition politicians in New Delhi have raised concerns that the extra troops were being deployed for other reasons.

They include fears that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist government could carry out a threat to scrap Kashmir's special status under the constitution.

Political leaders in the territory have warned that cancelling constitutionally guaranteed rights -- which mean only state domiciles can buy land in the region -- could spark unrest in the Muslim-majority state.

Rebel groups have for decades fought against Indian soldiers deployed in the part of Kashmir controlled by New Delhi, seeking the territory's merger with Pakistan or outright independence.

The conflict has left tens of thousands dead, mostly civilians. -APP/AFP