Indian officials say elite troops crossed into Pakistan-ruled Kashmir on Thursday and killed suspected militants preparing to infiltrate and carry out attacks on major cities, raising tensions between the nuclear-armed rivals.
Pakistan said two of its soldiers had been killed in exchanges of fire, but denied India had made any targeted strikes across the de facto frontier that runs through the disputed Himalayan territory.
Indian special forces crossed the heavily militarized border by foot just after midnight and hit about half a dozen “launching pads”, where the suspected militants were preparing to sneak across, Reuters reports, citing an Indian military source and a government official.
The official said troops killed militants numbering in the double digits, and that no Indian soldier was killed.
An army official based in Indian-controlled Kashmir said two Indian soldiers were wounded while returning from the raid – one stepped on a landmine and another was shot.
Pakistan also captured an Indian soldier on its side of the border, military officials from both countries said.
An Indian army official said the soldier had inadvertently crossed the frontier and had nothing to do with the earlier raids.
Thursday’s strikes mark a rare public announcement by India that it had launched a military operation across its de facto border with Pakistan.
They followed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s warning that those India held responsible “would not go unpunished” for a Sept. 18 attack on an army base in Uri, near the Line of Control, that killed 18 soldiers.
The strikes also raised the possibility of military escalation between the neighbors that could wreck a 2003 Kashmir ceasefire.
In Washington, the White House urged India and Pakistan to avoid escalation.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said reports from the region indicated the Indian and Pakistani militaries had been in communication with one another.
“We encourage continued discussions … to avoid escalation,” he told a regular news briefing.
Both India and Pakistan claim Kashmir in full, but govern separate parts, and have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947, two of them over Kashmir.
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