India and Pakistan exchanged gunfire across the Kashmir border on Saturday, ending a pause in fighting that has already killed 17 civilians in the two countries in the worst skirmishes in a decade.
Army sources said Pakistan fired at Kerni area in Poonch district along the Line of Control, the first instance of firing after Thursday evening when guns fell silent after nine days of heavy firing and shelling. There were no reports of firing along the 192-km international border (IB).
“Our troops retaliated. Heavy firing is going on,” an army official said.
Villagers show mortar shell marks on a wall after indiscriminate firing by Pakistan Rangers at a residential area. (PTI Photo)
The government abandoned plans to move about 2,000 people in relief camps in Kathua district back to their homes after firing resumed.
More than 10,000 people are staying in relief camps and nearly 30,000 have left their homes along the border since the start of the firing, the worst since the two sides agreed to a ceasefire in 2003.
Analysts say the violence comes at a time when Pakistan’s army is taking a more assertive role in the country’s politics while India has toughened its stance ahead of assembly elections this month.
India and Pakistan exchange fire on the border sporadically but this year has been particularly volatile as Jammu and Kashmir is due for assembly polls and Pakistan typically ratchets up border tensions every time the state holds elections.
The two sides agreed a ceasefire in 2003 which has frayed over the past two years.
(With inputs from agencies)