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India, Pakistan Clash in Kashmir

August 4, 1998

JAMMU, India (AP) _ Indian and Pakistani gunners pounded each other’s positions today, killing at least four people in the latest clashes on the disputed frontier in Kashmir.

India and Pakistan blamed each other for targeting civilian areas and said their troops returned fire. Both sides used heavy mortar and artillery fire.

Cross-border shelling and gunfire intensified last week when Indian and Pakistani leaders held inconclusive talks on Kashmir, with 92 people killed so far. The attacks resumed today after a comparative lull Monday.

India and Pakistan have fought two wars over Kashmir, which is divided between them. Militants in the Indian-controlled part of the territory want to secede or unite with Muslim Pakistan. The Indian part of Kashmir is the country’s only state with an Islamic majority.

An Indian Defense Ministry statement said two civilians and a soldier were killed by artillery and mortar fire today.

Pakistani military sources said on customary condition of anonymity that Indians started the firing, using field artillery, rockets and small arms reportedly all along the line of control. They say they responded ``selectively″ and hit only military targets.

They also said one Pakistani civilian was killed and four injured, but there were no military casualties.

Indian officials said nearly 20,000 people living close to the border shifted to safer towns. Nearly 150 houses have been destroyed in three Indian villages.

Meanwhile, unidentified assailants late Monday attacked a remote village in the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir and killed 19 people, in what police described as a feud between two groups of Muslim separatists.

In an attack today, suspected separatists shot and killed three Hindus and burned down seven homes in Balmatkote in the southern Kashmir district of Udhampur, police said.

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee told Parliament the government was taking ``firm steps″ to deal with militants in Kashmir, the Press Trust of India reported.

Opposition legislators accused the government of failing to protect its citizens after repeated civilian massacres, and demanded the resignation of the home minister, who is in charge of internal security.

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