Pakistan evacuates border villages amid skirmish

ISLAMABAD • The Pakistani authorities yesterday began evacuating border villages in the disputed region of Kashmir amid rising tensions with India, officials said.

A few hundred families were moved to safer locations after overnight heavy exchanges of fire and artillery between Pakistani and Indian troops, said Mr Mushtaq Minhas, the Information Minister of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.

"The entire region has been put on high alert... We fear more areas will have to be evacuated if de-escalation doesn't start," Mr Minhas said.

Pakistani airspace remained closed yesterday and commercial flights from all airports were suspended for the second day, forcing thousands of travellers to defer their plans.

A train service to India was also cancelled yesterday, leaving dozens of Indian citizens stranded in the eastern city of Lahore.

Warplanes from Pakistan and India entered each other's airspace for a second day on Wednesday, stoking fears of a further escalation between the nuclear-armed neighbours.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan urged India to engage in talks to de-escalate tensions after the air force said it shot down two Indian fighters and captured a pilot. On Tuesday, Indian jets crossed into Pakistani airspace before dawn and bombed an alleged terrorist camp in the northern part of the country.

New Delhi claimed its air strikes killed around 350 militants, while Pakistan said the jets fired at mountains, killing nobody.

India said the strike was aimed at a Pakistan-based militant group that conducted a suicide attack in India-administered Kashmir earlier last month that killed 40 Indian paramilitary police.

DPA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 01, 2019, with the headline 'Pakistan evacuates border villages amid skirmish'. Print Edition | Subscribe