Pakistan Accuses India of Killing Kashmiri Civilians
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) _ Pakistan accused India on Thursday of stepping up attacks on civilians in Kashmir, two weeks before the two countries are to restart stalled talks on the disputed region.
The foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan are to meet Jan. 1 in Islamabad to work toward an agreement to end nearly 46 years of wrangling over Muslim-dominated Kashmir - the flashpoint of two wars between the countries.
″Indian violations ... have escalated in recent weeks and have taken a heavy toll on human lives,″ said Foreign Ministry spokesman Munir Akram.
On Wednesday, Indian soldiers shot a 10-year-old girl in the head and a 50- year-old woman in the chest, Akram said. Both victims died.
In the past three years, Akram said at least 600 Pakistani civilians have been killed in random shootings by Indian border guards.
Pakistan’s accusation couldn’t be independently confirmed.
A military spokesman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said cross- border shootings have increased in the past seven weeks.
″It seems they are harassing people living in villages along the border in an attempt to force them to move,″ he said, adding that dozens of people have fled their homes and moved to Muzzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan- controlled Azad (Free) Kashmir.
In 1948 and in 1965, Pakistan went to war with India over the Himalayan state of Kashmir. They fought a third war in 1971 over Bangladesh, then called East Pakistan, which seceded from Pakistan and became independent.
Jammu and Kashmir is India’s only Muslim-dominated state. More than 7,500 people have been killed since late 1989, when militants stepped up their battle to win independence for Jammu-Kashmir or a merger with Pakistan.
India accuses Pakistan of arming and training the Muslim militants, a charge denied by Islamabad.
In another development, Indian soldiers in Kashmir’s Budgam district clashed with militants Thursday and killed two of them, including Shamus ul- Haq, a commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen, the valley’s top militant group, according to guerrillas and state officials.
Also Thursday, Kashmiri rebels accused India’s military of torturing and killing a guerrilla leader shortly after arresting him. The charge was made hours after the military gave a local hospital the body of Jamal Afgani, the chief of the Jehad Force rebel group.
The army captured Afgani on Wednesday. Later in the day, he was shot and killed when he tried to escape, according to an army official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The Jehad Force denied that, saying in a statement that Afgani was tortured and killed while being interrogated.
Human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Asia Watch often accuse India’s military of torturing and killing militant suspects while interrogating them in Jammu-Kashmir.