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16 Die As Plane Shot Down by India

August 10, 1999

KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) _ Indian fighter planes shot down a Pakistani navy surveillance aircraft today. A navy spokesman said 16 servicemen were killed.

Both of the nuclear-armed neighbors claimed the plane was shot down in their territory.

The French-built Atlantic-I aircraft was on a routine surveillance flight when it was shot down near a small coastal town, said Cmdr. Gull Zaman Malik, a navy spokesman.

``Its wreckage has been found on Pakistani territory,″ a Pakistani air force official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

India said the aircraft was shot down after intruding into Indian airspace and failing to respond to warnings. Indian helicopters reached the site of the crash in the Rann of Kutch, a desert near the border with Pakistan, said Squadron Leader R.K. Dhingra.

Pakistan’s information minister, Mushahid Hussain, described the attack as a violation of Pakistani airspace and said in a television interview it was a ``totally unprovoked aggression by India.″

Dhingra said India had no immediate information on casualties. The plane was shot down by a Russian-built MiG-21 patrolling India’s western borders.

The crash came a few weeks after India and Pakistan came to the brink of another war over disputed Kashmir. They have fought three previous wars since gaining independence from Britain in 1947, two over Kashmir.

This year, India fought an 11-week undeclared war with what it described as Pakistani army troops in Indian-held territory.

Pakistan denied its soldiers were involved and said all the fighters were Kashmiri militants.

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