NEW DELHI (AP) — The Latest on disputed Kashmir (all times local):
Pakistan’s military and police say “unprovoked firing” by India across the heavily militarized Line of Control in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir has killed three soldiers and two civilians in separate incidents.
The military said in a statement Thursday that Pakistani troops returned fire, killing five Indian soldiers and damaging Indian bunkers.
The police and military said three Pakistani soldiers were killed when Indian troops targeted their post in Leepa town along the Line of Control, and two civilians died when mortars fired by India hit a village in Poonch town.
They were the first reported clashes between Pakistan and India since New Delhi changed the status of Indian-administered Kashmir, increasing tension between the two South Asian nuclear-armed rivals.
The military said the two sides were still exchanging fire, prompting villagers to move to safer places.
There was no way to independently confirm the claims. Pakistan and India routinely accuse each other of unprovoked firing in the disputed region.
Holding black flags and chanting slogans against India, about 3,000 Pakistanis have rallied about a mile (2 kilometers) from the Indian embassy in Islamabad, urging the world community to take notice of human rights abuses in the disputed Muslim-majority Himalayan region.
Thursday’s rally was organized by Pakistan’s ruling Tehreek-e-Insaf party and was also attended by Kashmiri people living in Pakistan.
Later, a delegation from the demonstrators went to the Indian embassy to convey a protest over changes made by the Indian government to Kashmir’s special status and demanded the lifting of a curfew and other curbs on people living in Indian-administered Kashmir.
The rally was held on India’s Independence Day, which was observed in Pakistan as Black Day to express solidarity with the people of Kashmir.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi defended his government’s move to strip the disputed Kashmir region of its statehood and special constitutional provisions in an Independence Day speech Thursday, as about 7 million Kashmiris stayed indoors for the 11th day of an unprecedented security lockdown and communications blackout.
In an address from the capital’s Mughal-era Red Fort, Modi said Kashmir’s previous status — some political autonomy and a ban on outsiders buying land and taking public sector jobs in the Muslim-majority Himalayan region — had fueled a movement for separatism and was unjust for Kashmiri women, because the law said they lost their inheritance rights if they marry a person from outside the region.