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World - Asia/Pacific

India launches third day of airstrikes in Kashmir

An Indian soldier in Kashmir  
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CNN's Satinder Bindra reports on India's attacks in Kashmir
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 SPECIAL:
Ground Zero: The nuclear question
 ALSO:
Pakistan urges U.N. role in Kashmir

 MESSAGE BOARD:
India-Pakistan relations

May 28, 1999
Web posted at: 4:49 a.m. EDT (0849 GMT)


In this story:

Loss of jets confirmed

Strikes will go on

Protest against airstrikes

RELATED STORIES, SITES icon



NEW DELHI, India (CNN) - India unleashed a third day of airstrikes against guerrillas on the northern heights of Kashmir on Friday, and said it had killed at least 151 of the militants and choked off their supply routes from Pakistan.

"Strikes are continuing," a defense ministry spokesman told Reuters without giving details of the raids.

India's air force accused Pakistan of shooting down an MI-17 helicopter over the Himalayan region claimed by the world's two newest nuclear powers. A spokesman said the helicopter was shot from across the Line of Control that divides the Pakistani and Indian-controlled zones of the region.

The latest strafing of the barren ridges came after a night of heavy artillery exchange by Indian and Pakistani troops across the Line of Control, fueling fears of a widening conflict between the two nuclear rivals.

India and Pakistan have gone to war twice over Kashmir since they gained independence from Britain in 1947. Since 1990, they have been locked in a diplomatic tussle over a Muslim revolt in Kashmir, two-thirds of which is ruled by India and the rest by Pakistan.

Loss of jets confirmed

A senior Indian defense official confirmed that Pakistan had captured the pilot of one of two combat jets lost on Thursday in raids near the Line of Control.

Pakistan's military said India had intensified shelling and carried out "probing attacks" since the loss of their MiG-21 and MiG-27 attack aircraft, which Islamabad said were shot down after they invaded its airspace.

"I'm sure they suffered a shock yesterday when we shot down their planes," said army spokesman Brigadier Rashid Qureshi. "We don't expect them to keep quiet...so we are prepared for this."

Indian branded the charge a "figment of Pakistan's imagination" and said its neighbor appeared to be pushing more infiltrators into the Indian side of Kashmir and had continued with "senseless targetting" of civilian areas.

Strikes will go on

Sounding upbeat despite their setback on Thursday, Indian military chiefs said the airstrikes would continue until the infiltrators were flushed out or killed.

Maj. Gen. J.J. Singh, additional director general of operations, told a news briefing that more than 200 of the militants spread across an area of 30-40 km (19-25 miles) inside Indian territory had probably been killed.

"These intrusions are shrinking backwards now," he said. "They can't move forward because no one can support them."

He said 24 Indian personnel had died in the three-week-old hostilities, while 131 were wounded and 12 were missing.

"Unless we find their bodies, we are not sure if they are dead or in captivity," he said.

An Indian defense official confirmed Pakistan's claim that one of its pilots had been captured on the other side.

Pakistan said it shot down the planes after they violated its airspace and both crashed six to seven km (3.7 to 4.3 miles) inside its territory. It said one of the pilots was killed and the other was captured and would be treated as a prisoner of war.

India said there had been no violation of the Line of Control. It said one of the jets developed engine failure and the pilot ejected. The other flew low to locate the pilot and was hit by a surface-to-air missile from across the Line of Control.

Kashmir: High stakes on high ground

The mountainous, 83,807-square-kilometer (32,358-square- mile) province sits at the western end of the Himalayas, along the northern border of India and Pakistan.

A U.N.-drawn boundary divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan, which fought wars over the territory in 1948 and 1965. China also has part of the territory, which it occupied in 1959.

India's portion comprises the state of Jammu and Kashmir, with the capital in Srinagar. Pakistan's territory is governed from Muzaffarabad.

India has fought a Muslim insurrection in its portion of the territory since 1990. Its attacks on rebel positions Wednesday marked an escalation of that campaign.

Protest against airstrikes

In Srinagar, the summer capital of India's Jammu and Kashmir state, a one-day strike called by separatists to protest against the airstrikes on "freedom fighters" closed shops and businesses.

Defense officials said there had been a change of tack by the Indian Air Force on Friday. There was no dawn strike, as on the two previous days, and the raids were launched from cities other than Srinagar to surprise the other side.

Islamabad, which on Friday marked the first anniversary of nuclear tests staged in reply to underground blasts by New Delhi, says it wants to defuse the situation and is seeking U.N. intervention in Kashmir.

India says it is committed to February's Lahore Declaration that pledged to solve the dispute over the region amicably.

Analysts say the conflict is unlikely to spread, though world powers have reacted with alarm to the mounting violence.

New Delhi Bureau Chief Satinder Bindra and Reuters contributed to this report.


RELATED STORIES:
Pakistan seeks U.N. help in Kashmir dispute
May 27, 1999
Indian attack on Kashmir guerrillas raises alarm in Pakistan
May 26, 1999

RELATED SITES:
The Government of Pakistan
Embassy of Pakistan in Washington, D.C.
Indian Ministry of External Affairs
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