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Pakistan Says Indian Aircraft Cross Into Disputed Airspace In Kashmir

Tensions are rising following a suicide bombing in earlier this month in disputed Kashmir that killed dozens of Indian soldiers.
Tensions are rising following a suicide bombing in earlier this month in disputed Kashmir that killed dozens of Indian soldiers.

Pakistan's military says Indian aircraft crossed into disputed airspace over the region of Kashmir, prompting Islamabad to scramble its own fighter jets in response.

An Indian news agency, meanwhile, reported that Indian Air Force jets had attacked a "major terrorist camp" in the Pakistani-controlled part of Kashmir early on February 26.

There was no confirmation of the reports from Indian government or military officials. However, Rahul Gandhi, a prominent politician who heads the Congress political party, posted a congratulatory message on Twitter, saying "I salute the pilots of the [Indian Air Force]."

​Another government minister, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, made a more specific claim, saying Indian jets targeted multiple "terror camps."

If it is confirmed that Indian jets crossed into Pakistani-controlled territory, it would be the first time that had happened since 1971, signifying a major escalation between the two nuclear-armed rivals.

The incident comes just 11 days after a suicide attack killed at least 41 soldiers on the Indian side of divided Kashmir.

Since then, rhetoric between Islamabad and New Delhi has been steadily escalating.​

In a February 25 post to Twitter, Major General Asif Ghafoor, a Pakistani military spokesman, said Indian jets crossed the so-called "line of control" in the Muzafarabad district and traveled as far as four miles into the territory.

The line of control is an administrative border based on lines established after the first war the two countries fought in 1947.

In an earlier post, Ghafoor said the Indian jets were met with a "timely and effective response from Pakistan Air Force," and the Indian craft "released payload in haste while escaping which fell near Balakot.”

"No casualties or damage," he wrote.​

Balakot is about 50 miles from the line of control.

The Indian news agency ANI, citing unnamed military sources, said that 12 Mirage 2000 fighter jets had attacked a "terrorist camp."

The February 14 attack on Indian soldiers, in the Pulwama district, was claimed by Jaish-e-Mohammed, an Islamist extremist group based in Pakistan, although the suicide attacker came locally from Indian Kashmir.

In a letter dated February 22, Pakistan's foreign minister appealed to the UN Security Council to draw attention to Indian threats in the wake of the suicide bombing.

Shah Mahmood Qureshi warned that the security situation in the region was deteriorating as India threatens to use force against Pakistan.

India and Pakistan have fought two of their three full-fledged wars over Kashmir since their partition during independence from Britain in 1947.

Since 1989, rebels have been fighting against Indian control in Kashmir.

About 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and subsequent crackdown.

With reporting by AFP