Two Indians killed in Kashmir border firing

SRINAGAR, India/MUZAFFARABAD, Pakistan (Reuters) - An Indian father and daughter were killed and about a dozen civilians were injured in the disputed Kashmir region on Saturday as India and Pakistan exchanged fire over their de facto border, said officials from each side of the frontier.

India and Pakistan have accused each other of initiating the cross-border shelling.

The father and daughter were killed in the Indian part of the disputed Kashmir region by Pakistani army fire, and three of their relatives were wounded, an Indian military spokesman said.

A mortar bomb hit a home in an Indian village near the Line of Control, which separates the two sides in Kashmir, inflicting the casualties, Indian spokesman, Lieutenant-Colonel Manish Mehta said.

Mehta said Pakistani troops began firing weapons from small arms to mortars in the Nowshera sector of Kashmir, prompting a retaliation by Indian forces.

But an official in Pakistani Kashmir said Pakistan had responded to “unprovoked” Indian firing.

Eight people, five of them women, were injured in the Pakistani-administered side of Kashmir, said Raja Azhar Iqbal, an official in Pakistani Kashmir’s information department.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since their independence in 1947, two of them over the Muslim-majority Himalayan region of Kashmir which they both claim in full but rule in part.

Clashes between their forces in Kashmir largely stopped after a 2003 ceasefire but exchanges of fire have been more common over the past couple of years.

Occasional efforts to improve ties between the nuclear-armed neighbors through talks have achieved little, while protests against Indian rule in its part of Kashmir have flared violently over the past year.

Pakistan accuses India of helping the separatist movement in Baluchistan, a charge denied by India.

For its part, India says Pakistan aids separatist fighters in Kashmir, part of India’s only Muslim-majority state, which Pakistan also claims. Pakistan denies the accusation.

Last week, India accused Pakistani forces of killing two soldiers patrolling the Kashmir border and mutilating their bodies. Pakistan’s military denied the allegations and said it had not committed ceasefire violations.

Reporting by Fayaz Bukhari; Editing by Nidhi Verma and Ros Russell