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May 28, 2017

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Four killed in India-Pakistan border fire

SRINAGAR, India -- Four people were killed when nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan traded heavy fire across their border early Saturday, with each country accusing the other of "unprovoked" military action.

"Two civilians were killed" and four people injured, including a paramilitary soldier, on the Indian side of the international frontier when Pakistani forces opened fire, Indian police inspector-general Rajesh Kumar told AFP.

On the other side of the frontier, two Pakistani civilians — a woman and a 60-year-old man — "were martyred" by Indian fire, a senior Pakistani military official said.

The neighbors accused each other of starting the pre-dawn firing.

The countries have been exchanging almost daily charges of violating a decade-old cease-fire since India scrapped last Monday bilateral talks with Pakistan.

New Delhi called off the talks over meetings between Pakistan's high commissioner (ambassador) and Kashmiri separatists.

The latest Pakistani fire targeted several Indian border posts, Indian police said. Many villagers living close to the border in the R.S. Pura area of disputed Indian Kashmir have been evacuated due to Pakistani firing, Kumar told AFP.

But Pakistani officials said Indian troops initiated Saturday's "unprovoked firing," hitting the Sialkot region facing the south of Indian Kashmir where another civilian was killed by Indian fire last month.

"Indian Border Security Forces (BSF) again resorted to unprovoked firing in the Chaprar and Harpal sectors," the Pakistani senior military official told AFP.

Last month, Indian police accused the Pakistani army of killing a soldier during border firing in the same region.

On Aug. 8, in a brief moment of goodwill between the nations, Pakistan freed an Indian soldier captured after he was swept into the Pakistani zone of Kashmir when his patrol boat capsized.

Pakistan described the cancellation of the bilateral talks as a "setback" for relations and asserted the meetings with Kashmiri separatists were a traditional practice ahead of talks with India "to facilitate meaningful discussions."

The unresolved territorial dispute over Kashmir has been a huge source of tension between the neighbors who have fought three wars since the subcontinent's 1947 partition at independence from Britain.

Insurgency and the rivalry with Pakistan has made Muslim-majority Indian Kashmir one of the world's tensest regions with an estimated 500,000 Indian troops deployed in the territory.

Relations collapsed between India and Pakistan after Pakistani gunmen attacked India's commercial hub Mumbai in 2008, leaving 166 people dead.

Violence has fallen in the region since 2004 when the countries began a peace process, but there are sporadic rebel attacks on government forces while Indian Kashmiris often accuse government forces of human rights abuses.

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