News World Tensions rise as Pakistan confirms shooting down two Indian aircraft
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Tensions rise as Pakistan confirms shooting down two Indian aircraft

Soldiers stand next to the wreckage of an Indian fighter jet shot down in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir near the Line of Control. Photo: Getty
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Pakistan has confirmed that it has carried out airstrikes in Indian-controlled Kashmir and shot down two Indian jets in its own airspace.

It captured one of the pilots as the conflict with its nuclear-armed neighbour continued to escalate.

“Today, Pakistan Air Force undertook strikes across Line of Control from within Pakistani airspace,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The Pakistan military said Indian jets had entered Pakistan in response and two had been shot down, with one pilot captured.

Earlier, the two nations exchanged fire along their contested border in Kashmir, a day after Indian war planes struck inside Pakistan for the first time since a war in 1971.

Leading powers have urged 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 the Jaish-e-Mohammed, 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 airstrike was a failure and inflicted no casualties.

The action was ordered as India said it had intelligence that Jaish was planning more attacks.

“In the face of imminent danger, a pre-emptive strike became absolutely necessary,” Vijay Gokhale, India’s top diplomat, told reporters.

“The existence of such training facilities, capable of training hundreds of jihadis could not have functioned without the knowledge of the Pakistani authorities,” Gokhale said.

Pakistan denies harbouring JeM, a primarily anti-India group that forged ties with al Qaeda and has been on a UN terror list since 2001.

On Tuesday, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne urged Pakistan to take “urgent and meaningful” action against terror groups, as tensions mount with neighbouring India.

“Australia urges both sides to exercise restraint, avoid any action which would endanger peace and security in the region, and engage in dialogue to ensure that these issues are resolved peacefully,” Ms Payne said.

It followed news that Pakistan began shelling using heavy-calibre weapons in 12 to 15 places along the de facto border in Kashmir, known as the Line of Control (LoC), a spokesman for the Indian defence forces said on Wednesday.

“The Indian Army retaliated for effect and our focused fire resulted in severe destruction to five posts and number of casualties,” the spokesman 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.

Pakistan has promised to retaliate to Tuesday’s air strikes, and security across India has been tightened.

The two countries have fought three wars since independence from British colonial rule in 1947 and went to the brink of a fourth in 2002 after a Pakistani militant attack on India’s parliament.

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