Pakistan says it has shot down two Indian military jets, which violated its airspace, and captured a pilot amid escalating tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbors over the recent developments in disputed Kashmir.
According to Press TV, the Pakistani Military’s Spokesman, Major General Asif Ghafoor, said in a Twitter message that two Indian Air Force planes had been targeted in the airspace over the Islamabad-administered side of Kashmir.
One aircraft went down on the Pakistani side, while the other crashed on the Indian side of Kashmir, the official added.
“One Indian pilot arrested by troops on ground while two in the area,” he said in the tweet, without elaborating.
Reuters cited an Indian official as saying that New Delhi’s jets also intercepted at least three Pakistan warplanes and forced them back after they crossed into Indian territory on Wednesday.
The Pakistani jets intruded over the Bimber Gali- Noushera sector at the Line of Control, said the unnamed official.
The reported airspace intrusion prompted India to close at least four airports in the northern part of the country.
Citing an Indian government official, Reuters said the airports are at Pathankot, Leh, Srinagar and Jammu.
The main airport in Srinagar had been shut down for three hours, according to police.
Overnight, the two sides traded heavy fire along their border in the Kashmir region. Islamabad pledged to surprise India with its retaliatory strikes after India pounded a purported militant training camp on Pakistan soil on Tuesday morning.
Pakistan began shelling the India-controlled side of Kashmir from across the border — known as the Line of Control (LoC) — on Tuesday evening, a spokesman for the Indian defense forces said on Wednesday.
“The Indian Army retaliated for effect and our focused fire resulted in severe destruction to five posts and a number of casualties,” said the spokesman.
He said that five Indian troops suffered minor wounds in the shelling that ended on Wednesday morning.
“So far there are no (civilian) casualties but there is panic among people,” said Rahul Yadav, the Deputy Commissioner of the Poonch district. “We have an evacuation plan in place and if need arises we will evacuate people to safer areas.”
On the other side of the border, Pakistan’s local officials said at least four people had been killed and seven others wounded in the exchange of fire.
They did not clarify if the casualties were civilian or military.
Indian police also said they had killed two militants in a gunbattle on Wednesday
Earlier, India said that it sought no “further escalation of the situation,” arguing that it had only conducted “pre-emptive” airstrikes against what it called a militant camp on in the Pakistani town of Balakot near Kashmir.
Indian military sources said some 300 militants were killed in the operation, a claim rejected by Islamabad as outright “lying.”
New Delhi said the targeted camp belonged to the so-called Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) militant group, which had claimed responsibility for an attack on an Indian security convoy in Pulwama, in Indian-administered Kashmir, on February 14. That attack killed more than 40 Indian troops.
Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said on Wednesday that the government in New Delhi carried out the air raids “in the light of the continuing refusal of Pakistan to acknowledge and act against terror groups on its territory.”