Four civilians killed in Azad Kashmir after Indian shelling in Kotli district

Indian Border Security Force (BSF) patrol the India-Pakistan border area at Ranbir Singh Pura.

Four civilians have been killed and seven others wounded in an exchange of fire between Pakistani and Indian troops in the Kotli district of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), officials said.

Nasrullah Khan, a senior hospital official told Al Jazeera by telephone on yesterday night that “So far, four people have been killed in the shelling,”

Mr Khan said the deceased included a woman and her two children in Nakyal along the Line of Control (LoC), which is the heavily-militarised de facto border between Pakistan and India.

Another death was reported in the town of Koiratta in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, he added.

Local disaster management authority official, Shariq Tariq, told AFP news agency: “An Indian mortar shell hit a house in Nakyal sector along the Line of Control that killed a mother, daughter and son.”

But the Indian media has reported that at least five of their soldiers were also wounded in cross-border skirmishes along the LoC.

The civilian deaths in AJK came as India said on Tuesday morning that it had carried out air strikes near Balakot, a town 30 miles from the LoC inside Pakistan’s territory.

The raids were in response to a deadly car bomb attack on February 14 in Indian-occupied Kashmir which killed 44 Indian paramilitary troops.

However, there have been conflicting claims about the extent of the damage caused by the air raids.

The BJP-led government of Narendra Modi, who will be facing a general election in April and May, said the air strikes successfully targeted a Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) training camp, the group who India believe are responsible for the Pulwama attack.

India’s Foreign Secretary, Vijay Gokhale, said “a very large number” of JeM fighters were killed, without citing any figures.

Mr Gokhale said: “The existence of such training facilities, capable of training hundreds of jihadis, could not have functioned without the knowledge of the Pakistani authorities.”

Pakistan, which has denied sheltering JeM, also rejected India’s claim, saying the Indian aircraft had dropped their bombs in a secluded forest resulting in no causalities.

Islamabad described their hostile neighbour’s air raids as “reckless and fictitious” and said it would respond “at a time and place of its choosing”.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and his Hindu nationalist counterpart Modi both called for emergency meetings of senior ministers and military officials following the attack.

PM Khan also summoned a meeting for later today of the National Command Authority (NCA), which oversees the command and control of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, the military said.

The increasing tensions between Pakistan and India has sparked international concern, with the European Union (EU) and China calling on both countries to show restraint.

Muslim majority Kashmir has been divided between Pakistan and India since the end of Britain’s colonial rule over the Indian subcontinent in 1947, but both countries claim the land in full.

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