Pakistan-India gunbattle leaves nine dead in Kashmir

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Indian and Pakistani forces exchanged fire across the tense, heavily militarised Kashmir border Friday, leaving eight civilians and an Indian soldier dead, officials said.

The heavy weapons fire along a rare stretch of frontier that India and Pakistan do not argue over also left 22 people wounded. It came a day ahead of a visit by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Kashmir.

The two sides started shooting at each other on Wednesday in the RS Pura sector of Indian Kashmir, opposite Sialkot in Pakistan's Punjab province. Indian authorities rushed armoured vehicles to evacuate residents Friday morning as heavy artillery and small arms fire came across the border, officials said.

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“Four border residents and a Border Security Force soldier were killed in the Pakistani firing,” said Vaid. The deaths came three days after India suspended military operations against rebels in Kashmir for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan that began Thursday.

Officially there has been a ceasefire on the Kashmir border since 2003. But there are regular frontier skirmishes and gunfights between rebels and government forces this year have already left 72 militants, 33 civilians and 30 Indian security forces dead.

Kashmir has been divided between the arch-rivals since the end of British colonial rule in 1947. Both claim the former Himalayan kingdom in full. India has about 500,000 soldiers in the part of Kashmir it controls.

Security has been cranked up across the restive region ahead of Modi’s two-day visit beginning Saturday. The prime minister is to inaugurate a hydropower station near the disputed border with Pakistan.

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