Pakistan says Indian shooting kills 3 in Kashmir

Authorities in Pakistan say Indian troops have fired mortars into Pakistan's portion of the disputed Kashmir region, killing three civilians in recent days

MUZAFFARABAD, Pakistan -- Pakistani authorities said Sunday that mortars fired by Indian troops into Pakistan's portion of the disputed Kashmir region have killed three civilians and damaged nearly a dozen homes in recent days.

However, India's military blamed Pakistan's forces for initiating the shooting, calling it an “unprovoked ceasefire violation.”

Although Pakistan and India often exchange fire in Kashmir, skirmishes have increased in the past several days.

Tensions in Muslim-majority Kashmir — which is divided between Pakistan and India but claimed by both in its entirety — have escalated since August. That's when India downgraded the autonomy of the portion of Kashmir it administers and imposed a lock-down.

Disaster management authorities and other officials in Pakistan's portion of Kashmir said several people have also been wounded when India allegedly targeted civilian population.

Pakistan's military says it returned fire in the past 72 hours, causing damages to Indian posts.

India's Lt. Col. Devender Anand, an Indian Army spokesman, said Pakistani soldiers had fired mortars and artillery shells and small arms at least at half a dozen places in the last three days. He added that the Indian soldiers “retaliated effectively.”

The latest development comes as supporters from a radical Pakistani party, Jamaat-e-Islami, held a large rally in the capital, Islamabad, to express solidarity with people living in Kashmir.

Pakistan and India have fought two of their three wars on Kashmir after gaining independence from Britain in 1947.

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Associated Press Writer Aijaz Hussain in Srinagar, India contributed to this story