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India accuses Pakistan of latest firing in Kashmir
by Staff Writers
Srinagar, India (AFP) Aug 13, 2013

UN chief in Pakistan amid Kashmir tensions
Islamabad (AFP) Aug 13, 2013 - UN chief Ban Ki-moon arrived in Islamabad on Tuesday for a two-day visit as tensions remain high between nuclear-armed neighbours Pakistan and India over the disputed territory of Kashmir.

Ban will hold talks with President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, as well as meeting young people and getting a briefing on work to combat floods in Pakistan.

The trip comes as Pakistan and India trade accusations over several firing incidents across the Line of Control, the de facto border monitored by UN observers that divides the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir.

Islamabad on Monday summoned India's deputy ambassador to protest at what it called "unprovoked shelling" which killed one civilian.

India's army accused Pakistan on Tuesday of firing across the border in Kashmir overnight, but did not report any casualties.

Despite the Kashmir tensions, the UN said Ban's visit would focus on education efforts.

"In line with Malala Day last month he will meet with students in Islamabad to discuss efforts to promote and expand quality education for all," a UN statement said.

The day was declared in honour of Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani teenager campaigning for girls' education who survived a gunshot to the head from Taliban extremists in October 2012.

The 16-year-old gave a moving speech at the United Nations in New York last month in which she vowed to continue to work for gender equality in education.

Nearly half of all children in Pakistan and almost three quarters of young girls are not enrolled in primary school, according to UN and government statistics.

Ban will also meet the Speaker of the National Assembly.

He will attend Pakistan's independence day celebrations on Wednesday and will highlight the country's role as one of the largest contributors of troops and police to UN peacekeeping missions.

During his visit officials of Pakistan's National Disaster Management Authority will brief him about the floods in the country, where annual monsoon rains from July to September bring misery to thousands and inundate towns and villages.

Monsoon rains triggering floods have killed 84 people across Pakistan and affected more than 80,000 others this month, and officials have warned of further downpours.

India's army accused Pakistan on Tuesday of firing across the de facto border that divides Kashmir, in the latest confrontation fuelling tensions between the nuclear-armed rivals.

The army said Pakistani soldiers had violated the ceasefire overnight along the heavily militarised Line of Control (LoC) in the disputed Himalayan region.

It said in a statement that Pakistani soldiers started firing at Indian posts in Mendhar district late on Monday and about an hour later in the Balakot area of Poonch sector, with the firing continuing until about 6am.

"Pakistani soldiers used small arms, machine guns and mortars. We gave a calibrated response," an army officer said separately, on condition of anonymity.

Tensions have flared in the Kashmir valley since the ambush and killing last week of five Indian soldiers in the Poonch sector, which India blamed on the Pakistani army.

The ambush sparked a series of cross-border skirmishes which the rival neighbours blamed on each other.

Pakistan accused India of killing a civilian during firing on Monday and summoned its envoy in Islamabad to register a protest.

Last week's ambush was the deadliest such incident along the LoC since the two countries agreed to a ceasefire in 2003. Pakistan denied its soldiers were involved in the attack.

Indian Defence Minister A. K. Antony last week hinted at stronger military action along the LoC in the wake of the ambush.

In comments on Monday, Antony said: "The armed forces have the freedom to respond to a developing situation there (along the LoC) appropriately."

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been vocal in his desire for better relations with India since his election in May, but the recent flare-ups have tested the resolve for peace on both sides.

The picturesque Himalayan territory is divided between India and Pakistan by the UN-monitored LoC, but both countries claim it in full.

A dozen militant groups have also been fighting Indian forces since 1989 for the independence of the disputed territory or for its merger with Pakistan.

Although violence has abated during the last decade, the fighting has left tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, dead.


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