Pakistan shoots down Indian jets, carries out air strikes in Kashmir
Pakistan shot down two Indian jets on Wednesday, a spokesperson for the Pakistan armed forces said, a day after Indian warplanes struck inside Pakistan for the first time since a war in 1971, prompting leading powers to urge the nuclear armed rivals to show restraint.
Tensions have been elevated since a suicide car bombing by Pakistan-based militants in Indian-controlled Kashmir killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary police on February 14, but the risk of conflict rose dramatically on Tuesday when India launched an air strike on what it said was a militant training base.
The attack targeted Jaish-e-Mohammed militants, the group that claimed credit for the suicide attack. But while India said a large number of JeM fighters had been killed, Pakistani officials said the Indian air strike was a failure and inflicted no casualties.
Indian air force planes strayed into Pakistani airspace on Wednesday after Pakistan had carried out air strikes in Indian-occupied Kashmir, said Major General Asif Ghafoor, a spokesperson for the Pakistan armed forces.
"PAF shot down two Indian aircrafts inside Pakistani airspace," he said in a tweet.
One of the aircraft fell on India's side of Kashmir, while the second came down in Pakistani-held territory, and its pilot was captured, he added.
A spokesperson for India's defense ministry was not immediately available for comment.
Police officials in Indian-controlled Kashmir said that two Indian pilots and a civilian had died after an Indian air force plane crashed in Kashmir, but did not confirm if the plane had been shot down by Pakistani forces.
Indian officials said three Pakistani jets had also entered Indian airspace, before being intercepted and forced turned back.
The Indian air force has ordered Kashmir's main airport in Srinagar along with at least three others in neighboring states to be closed because of the two incidents, an official said.
On Tuesday evening, Pakistan began shelling using heavy caliber weapons in 12 to 15 places along the Line of Control (LoC), a spokesperson for the Indian defense forces said.
"The Indian Army retaliated for effect and our focused fire resulted in severe destruction to five posts and number of casualties," the spokesperson said.
Five Indian soldiers suffered minor wounds in the shelling that ended on Wednesday morning, he added.
"So far there are no (civilian) casualties but there is panic among people," said Rahul Yadav, the deputy commissioner of the Poonch district where some of the shelling took place.
"We have an evacuation plan in place and if need arises we will evacuate people to safer areas," he said.
Local officials on the Pakistani side said at least four people had been killed and seven wounded, though it was unclear if the casualties were civilian or military.
India has also continued its crackdown on suspected militants operating in Kashmir, a mountainous region that both countries claim in full but rule in part.
On Wednesday, security forces killed two Jaish militants in a gun battle, Indian police said.
(Cover: File photo of an Indian Air Force (IAF) Mirage-2000 fighter aircraft during the Vayu Shakti 2019 fire power demonstration at the IAF's firing range field in Pokhran, Rajasthan, India, February 16, 2019. /VCG Photo)