NEW DELHI/SRINAGAR,India (Reuters) - India has warned Pakistan that it would pay for a deadly militant attack on an Indian army camp in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir, the latest violence in the disputed region to stoke tension between the nuclear-armed rivals.
Pakistan responded by saying it was “fully committed and capable of defending itself against any act of aggression” and India had unfairly blamed it for the attack “without a shred of evidence”.
Saturday’s attack on the camp near Jammu, in the Indian-controlled part of the Muslim-majority Himalayan region, was the worst in months with six soldiers and the father of a soldier killed. At least three militants were killed, according to Indian officials.
Indian Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told reporters the army had evidence the attack originated from Pakistan.
“Intelligence inputs indicate that these terrorists were being controlled by their handlers from across the border,” the minister said late on Monday.
“Pakistan is expanding the arc of terror ... resorting to ceasefire violations to assist infiltration,” Sitharaman said.
“Pakistan will pay for this misadventure.”
Pakistan rejected India’s latest accusation. It denies giving material aid to Muslim separatist fighters in Kashmir.
“We have repeatedly seen India arrogating to itself the role of judge, jury and executioner,” the Pakistani foreign ministry said in a statement.
Since their independence 71 years ago, India and Pakistan have fought three wars, two over the Kashmir region, which they both claim in full but rule in part.
India has long accused Pakistan of training and arming militants and helping them infiltrate across the heavily militarized Line of Control (LoC) that separates the two sides in the region.
A 2003 ceasefire between India and Pakistan in Kashmir led to a sharp drop off of clashes on the LoC but violence, and casualties among soldiers and civilians, has increased over the past few years.
Gunmen stormed an Indian military base in the town of Uri in Indian-controlled Kashmir in September 2016, killing 18 Indian soldiers, the largest such attack in 14 years.
India blamed Pakistan and in response said it had launched “surgical strikes” across the LoC to target fighters based on the Pakistani side. Pakistan denied any incursion had occurred.
Indian officials said intercepted communications indicated militants from the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) militant group, carried out Saturday’s attack.
After shooting their way into the base, the militants - who Indian officials said wore fatigues and carried assault rifles and grenades - took positions in a residential complex for soldiers’ families, leading to more than a day of gunfights to clear the area.
In a separate incident, officials from India’s paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force said they had routed a small group of militants who the day before tried to storm one of their bases in Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar.
Guards opened fire on a pair of militants armed with AK-47 rifles, who then took cover in a building adjacent to the camp, said Rajesh Yadav, a spokesman for the force.
One member of the CRPF and both militants were killed.
Pakistan said recently India’s accusations stemmed from its attempts to divert attention from its “state terrorism” and “brutalization of peaceful, unarmed Kashmiris”.
Reporting by Rupam Jain in New Delhi, Fayaz Bukhari in Srinagar and Kay Johnson in Islamabad; Editing by Tom Lasseter, Robert Birsel