Four Indians wounded in new Pakistan border clashes

SRINAGAR (REUTERS) - Indian and Pakistani forces exchanged fire in the disputed Kashmir region on Tuesday and four Indian civilians were wounded, a day after the highest civilian death toll in a single day from their cross-border conflict in more than a decade.

The mostly Muslim Himalayan region of Kashmir is claimed by both India and Pakistan and has been a major focus of tension in South Asia. The nuclear-armed neighbours have fought two wars over the territory and there have been regular clashes along their de facto border, known as the Line of Control (LoC).

Pakistan forces fired at 40 Indian army posts early on Tuesday, said Uttam Chand, a police official. Indian forces retaliated with gunfire and mortar bombs, he said.

"The intensity of firing has been very low compared to the previous night," Chand said.

Five Indian civilians and four Pakistani civilians were killed and dozens were injured by shelling on Monday. It was the highest death toll among non-military personnel in a single day in the region since 2003, police said.

The two sides have been trading fire and counter-accusations since the violence erupted last week. Pakistan's army said the hostility began when it responded to "unprovoked firing" from the Indian side on Friday.

Pakistan's foreign ministry said it had lodged a protest with Indian diplomats over the killings of its civilians. The ministry said the firing was "in complete disregard" of the Muslim Eid al-Adha festival being celebrated on Monday.

Indian Home Affairs Minister Rajnath Singh told a newspaper that Pakistan needs to learn that the newly elected Indian government will take a more aggressive approach if it comes under attack on the border.

"If our civilians are killed, India has every right to retaliate," Singh said in an interview published in the Hindustan Times on Tuesday.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi surprised many observers by inviting his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, to his inauguration in May in an effort to improve ties. But relations have soured since Modi called off talks between the two countries' top diplomats last month.

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