Pakistan, India reportedly exchange gunfire


January 27, 1996
Web posted at: 10:30 p.m. EST (0330 GMT)

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- Pakistan and India reportedly rained gunfire on each other Saturday, a day after a rocket torpedoed a mosque in the disputed Kashmir region, killing at least 18 worshippers and injuring some 20 others.

A spokesperson for Pakistan said there had been a fierce trading of gunfire between Pakistani and Indian troops since Friday near the U.N.-monitored line of control dividing the Himalayan Kashmir region between Pakistan and India.

There were no other details. Indian authorities did not confirm the exchange.

Two thirds of scenic Kashmir is held by India, the rest by Pakistan.

Pakistan blamed India for Friday's mosque attack during prayer time. India has denied responsibility, saying the rockets were fired by Pakistani troops. The United Nations is investigating the incident.

Countries trade allegations

Meanwhile, allegations and counter-allegations flew between the two countries, which have been engaged in a bitter feud over Kashmir for the last five decades.

A spokesperson for the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir said Pakistan had tried to disturb India's Republic Day function in the town of Poonch by firing a couple of rockets from across the border on Friday.

"They missed the target and hit their own mosque," the spokesperson said. "We did not attack them and did not shoot any rockets from this side."

Poonch is on the Indian side of the line that divides Indian-held Kashmir from Pakistan-controlled Kashmir. India's Republic Day commemorates the adoption of its constitution in 1950.

Pakistan, however, said it was Indian troops who fired two rockets at the mosque, which is in the village of Forward Kahuta om Pakistani-held Azad (free) Kashmir.

Pakistani police said one rocket crashed into a crowd leaving the mosque after noon prayers. About 3,000 people had gathered there for a "Black Day" procession to mark India's Republic Day.

The second rocket landed in a market area behind the mosque, but caused no damage or casualties, police said.

A history of feuding

Kashmir has been the cause of two of the three wars fought between Pakistan and India since independence from Britain in 1947. Both countries have thousands of troops deployed along the border and border skirmishes are frequent.

For the past six years India has been struggling to crush a Muslim-led secessionist movement in its portion of Kashmir, the only part of mainly Hindu India with an Islamic majority.

India says Pakistan is arming and aiding Kashmiri militants, but Pakistan refutes the charge, saying it only gives moral and political support to those seeking independence or union with Pakistan.

Pakistan worried by India's missile test


Pakistan is also expressing concerns over India's successful test Saturday of a long-range ballistic missile.

A senior Pakistani official said India's test of a longer-range version of its Prithvi missile was a very dangerous development and that Pakistan would have to take "necessary measures to counter this threat."

In New Delhi, an Indian Defense Ministry spokesperson said all the mission objectives of the missile test were fully met and the Prithvi-2 hit its target 250 km (150 miles) away.

Pakistani foreign secretary Najmuddin Sheikh said on state television that the Prithvi was "a Pakistan-specific" missile that could target every major Pakistani city.

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