8,000 villagers have been evacuated, says Prime Minister of Pakistan-held Kashmir
Tensions have continued to escalate between India and Pakistan in Kashmir
Thousands of villagers in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir have been forced to flee their homes due to escalating violence between India and Pakistan along the disputed border, a Pakistani politician said.
Raja Farooq Haider, the prime minister of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, the Pakistani-controlled part of the disputed region, said Tuesday the government has so far moved 8,000 people to “safer places” in the wake of ongoing “Indian shelling,” and plans are being made to move even more people.
Abdul Jabbar, a resident of the village in Bhimber, on the de facto border between the two countries, told CNN that all 10 members of his family had left their home at night. The next day it was hit by a mortar shell. “We don’t know what will happen to us,” he said.
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When asked about the evacuations due to what Pakistan said was shelling from the Indian side, Indian defense spokesman Lt. Col. Manish Mehta told CNN from the Indian city of Jammu, “We always respond appropriately and effectively whenever there is a ceasefire violation from the Pakistan side.”
The evacuation came after seven Pakistani soldiers were killed Monday in an exchange of fire between Pakistani and Indian forces at the Line of Control, the name of the border between the two countries.
There has been a steady escalation in tensions between the neighboring nations over recent months, with reports of daily ceasefire violations and regular losses of life on both sides. Each nation has accused the other of provocation.
In October, India relocated more than 10,000 people from the disputed border area of Kashmir. Simrandeep Singh, magistrate of Jammu District in India, accused Pakistani troops of firing across the Line of Control in two separate incidents.
Kashmir is a Muslim-majority region that has been disputed territory between India and Pakistan for the past 70 years.
Both of the nuclear-armed countries hold separate parts of the region and have fought two wars, in 1947 and 1965, over their claims. They came close to a third in 1999.
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Tensions have flared since 19 Indian soldiers were killed in September in an attack by armed militants on an army base in Uri, about 63 miles (102 kilometers) from Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir.
In the aftermath, India launched what it described as a “surgical strike” across the Line of Control to attack what it described as a terrorist launching pad. Pakistan denied that the target was a terrorist base, pointing out that two of its soldiers were killed.
CNN’s Sandi Sidhu, Immaduddin and Sugam Pokharel contributed to this report