Third deadly clash strikes Indo-Pakistan territory

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ISLAMABAD -- Pakistan accused Indian troops of killing one of its soldiers Thursday in Kashmir, the third deadly clash between the two nuclear arch rivals this week in the divided region.

Pakistani military officials released few details about the incident, saying only that a soldier assigned to a post near the so-called Line of Control that separates the portions of Kashmir ruled by Pakistan and India was killed by "unprovoked firing" from Indian troops.

The Associated Press quoted the Indian military as saying its troops only fired in retaliation after Pakistani soldiers fired on them. "Our troops retaliated, and an intermittent exchange of gunfire is continuing," Indian army spokesman Col. R.K. Palta said. "It's yet another cease-fire violation by the Pakistani troops."

On Tuesday, Indian military officials said two of their soldiers were killed by Pakistani soldiers who attacked an Indian military post in Kashmir, and claimed that one of the bodies had been beheaded. Pakistan's Foreign Ministry rejected India's claims as baseless and said Pakistan was prepared to cooperate with any investigation carried out by United Nations military observers in Kashmir.

The clashes began Sunday, when the Pakistani army accused Indian troops of launching a cross-border raid that killed a Pakistani soldier. India rejected that claim and said it retaliated with small-arms fire only after Pakistan attacked with shelling and automatic weapons.

While relations between the two countries have steadily improved in recent years, the dispute over the mountainous Kashmir region remains a major hurdle to further rapprochement. Kashmir has been the focus for two of the three wars that the two countries have fought since their independence from Britain in 1947.

A cease-fire in Kashmir has been in place since 2003, and the Line of Control designates the territory overseen by each nation.

The latest violence has raised concerns that the strengthening of ties between India and Pakistan, which include pledges to ramp up trade and ease visa restrictions, could be threatened. The United States and the United Nations have called upon the South Asian nations to step back and ensure an end to the border clashes.

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