MUZAFFARABAD/SRINAGAR (Reuters) - Seven people were killed in Kashmir in cross-border shelling by both Pakistan and India on Saturday, officials on both sides of the frontier said, as the anniversary of a militant’s killing raised tensions in the disputed region.
The violence occurred as hundreds of militants and political activists took to the streets in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir to commemorate the death of Burhan Wani, a militant killed by the army after urging the region’s mainly Muslim population to rise up against Indian forces.
A Reuters witness saw protesters holding Pakistani flags and banners and shouting slogans lauding the sacrifice of Wani and others, while pledging to carry on the holy war in Indian-administered Kashmir.
“Jihad is our path, freedom is our destination,” they shouted while holding up portraits of the slain militant.
In Indian-controlled Kashmir, another Reuters witness saw demonstrators wearing face masks throwing stones at police in downtown Srinagar, the region’s summer capital. Police retaliated with teargas and stones thrown using slingshots.
Indian authorities blocked internet access in Kashmir on Friday and sealed off his home town after Wani’s supporters said they would stage demonstrations to mark the anniversary.
Five people died on Pakistan’s side of the disputed border and 10 were wounded in cross-border shelling, local police officials told Reuters.
Pakistan’s government said it summoned India’s Deputy High Commissioner J.P. Singh over what it called “unprovoked ceasefire violations”.
The Indian army’s defence spokesman said two civilians were killed on its side of the frontier and two injured due to shelling by Pakistani troops. The army responded in kind to the Pakistani shelling, he said.
The South Asian neighbours have fought two of their three wars since independence in 1947 over Muslim-majority Kashmir, which they both claim in full but rule in part.
India blames Pakistan for pushing in militants from its part of Kashmir to carry out attacks, a charge denied by Islamabad.
India has been struggling to restore normality in Kashmir, deploying thousands more soldiers after Wani’s killing appeared to breathe new life into a 28-year armed revolt that had ebbed, with little international attention.
A Pakistan-based Kashmiri militant commander, who Washington last week added to a list of global terrorists, called for a strike on Saturday to mark Wani’s killing and led the protest in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.
Syed Salahuddin’s United Jihad Council, an umbrella body of anti-India militants based in Pakistan-held Kashmir, vowed to continue its struggle to liberate Kashmir and called upon Islamabad to support their efforts “militarily.”
“Diplomatic, moral and political support will not work anymore,” he said, addressing a large crowd gathered in an open space in Muzaffarabad.
He said a tripartite dialogue between India, Pakistan and the Kashmiris to resolve the dispute in accordance with U.N. Security Council resolutions, would be welcomed.
Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Janet Lawrence and Helen Popper