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Air skirmish as Pakistani jets drop bombs in Kashmir, Islamabad claims to shoot down two Indian fighters

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RINAGAR/NEW DELHI (REUTERS, AFP, BLOOMBERG) – Pakistan shot down two Indian Air Force planes in its airspace in Kashmir on Wednesday (Feb 27), a military spokesman said, adding that one Indian pilot had been captured.

“PAF shot down two Indian aircraft inside Pakistani airspace,” tweeted military spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor, adding that one aircraft had fallen in Pakistani-held Kashmir, while the other crashed on the Indian side.

“One Indian pilot arrested by troops on ground while two in the area,” he said without elaborating further.

But Indian air force sources rejected the claim and told CNN-IBN that all pilots have been “accounted for”.

Maj Gen Ghafoor said the Pakistani jets had locked on to six targets in a demonstration of their capacity to hit key installations but had deliberately avoided causing any damage.

“We engaged a nearby open space where there were no humans or military installation,” he told a news conference in Islamabad.

Police officials on the Indian side of Kashmir said that two Indian pilots and a civilian had died after an Indian air force plane crashed in Kashmir, but did not confirm if the plane had been shot down by Pakistani forces.

News agency ANI reported that India also shot down a Pakistan air force F-16 fighter jet. The fighter jet was shot down in Indian retaliatory fire 3km within Pakistan territory in Lam valley, Nowshera sector.

Indian police sources said the Pakistani fighters dropped bombs at Nadian, Laam Jhangar and Kerri in Rajouri district and the Hamirpur area of Bhimber Galli in Poonch at around 10.00 am.

“Indian jets can still be seen flying in the area. Local residents say one Pakistani jet was seen in flames across Line of Control, headed towards Laam valley,” police sources in Rajouri told CNN-IBN.

Islamabad said it had struck across the Line of Control, the de facto border between India and Pakistan, from “within Pakistani airspace”.

“This was not a retaliation to continued Indian belligerence. Pakistan has therefore, taken strikes at non-military target, avoiding human loss and collateral damage. Sole purpose being to demonstrate our right, will and capability for self-defence,” Islamabad said in a statement.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi cut short an address at an official function to rush to a meeting to review the security situation. Mr Modi was replying to questions from youngsters during the National Youth Festival 2019 when he was handed over a piece of a paper by an official, following which he rushed from the venue.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan was also slated to helm a meeting of Pakistan’s National Command Authority (NCA) to discuss the response to India’s air strikes.

Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley was quoted as saying by CNN-IBN: “If the USA can conduct an operation in Abbottabad, then India can also do that,” referring to the US operation that killed global terrorist Osama bin Laden in the Pakistani city.

“This is unprecedented territory, we haven’t had tit-for-tat air strikes between India and Pakistan since the 1971 war,” said Mr Anit Mukherjee, a former Indian Army major and assistant professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, by phone.

“We don’t know what will come from this. But it seems like Pakistan has given a response. And there have been casualties – captures, deaths.”

“We have had this sort of thing happening on the ground for the last 20 years,” Mr Mukherjee added. “It’s basically a shifting of the conflict to the air.”

CNN-IBN reported that commercial air traffic had been shut down in Chandigarh, Amritsar, Leh and the whole of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, with some flights returning to their cities of origin and others cancelled. Flight operations were also suspended at Dehradun airport.

International and domestic commercial flights at all major Pakistani airports have been suspended, Dawn newspaper stated. A Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight to New Delhi was cancelled due to the tensions, while another PIA flight from Manchester to Lahore was also stopped from taking off.

India and Pakistan exchanged fire along their contested border in Kashmir on Wednesday (Feb 27), a day after Indian warplanes struck inside Pakistan for the first time since a war in 1971, while leading powers urged the nuclear armed rivals to show restraint.

It is the first time in history that two nuclear armed powers have conducted air strikes on each other, while ground forces have exchanged fire in more than a dozen locations.

Tensions have been elevated since a suicide car bombing by Pakistan-based militants in Indian-controlled Kashmir killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary police on Feb 14, but the risk of conflict rose dramatically on Tuesday when India launched an air strike on what it said was a militant training base.

The attack targeted the Jaish-e-Mohammed militant group, which claimed credit for the suicide attack.

But while India said a large number of JeM fighters had been killed, Pakistani officials said the Indian air strike was a failure and inflicted no casualties.

On Tuesday evening, Pakistan began shelling using heavy calibre weapons in 12 to 15 places along the de facto border in Kashmir, known as the Line of Control (LoC), a spokesman for the Indian defence forces said on Wednesday.thestatemen

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