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Pakistan Launches Crackdown On Militants After Kashmir Attack


Kashmiri villagers watches a house on fire following a deadly gun battle between militants and Indian government forces in the Tral area of Pulwama district, south of Srinagar, on March 5.

Pakistan says it has arrested dozens of suspected militants, including prominent members of a group that has claimed responsibility for a deadly suicide bombing in Indian-administered Kashmir last month.

The bombing, which killed at least 41 Indian soldiers, triggered a dangerous escalation of tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbors last week.

In a March 5 statement, Pakistan's Interior Ministry said 44 suspected militants were arrested, including prominent members of the outlawed militant group.

The ministry said those arrested included Mufti Abdul Rauf, the brother of the outlawed Jaish-e Mohammad (JeM) group’s leader.

It said that Mufti Abdul Rauf, the brother of Masood Azhar, was among suspects named by India in a file on the February 14 bombing that New Delhi gave to Islamabad during the weekend.

Jaish-e Mohammad Masood Azhar (file photo)
Jaish-e Mohammad Masood Azhar (file photo)

The JeM militant group claimed responsibility for the attack on Indian security forces.

India has said that Pakistan had a "direct hand" in the attack, and accused its neighbor of providing sanctuary to the militants. Islamabad denies the accusations.

On February 26, Indian warplanes carried out an air strike in northeastern Pakistan on what New Delhi said was a militant training camp.

The next day, Pakistani aircraft entered Indian airspace and the two countries' jets engaged in aerial dogfights, with at least one Indian warplane shot down and its pilot captured on the ground in the Pakistan-controlled part of Kashmir.

The pilot was later handed back to New Delhi in what Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan called a "peace gesture."

The two sides claimed a second plane had been shot down, but they have disputed whose plane it was.

Pakistani and Indian forces have continued to fire over the Line of Control that serves as a de facto border in Kashmir.

Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan have fought two of their three full-fledged wars over the Himalayan region since their partition during independence from Britain in 1947.

As tensions continue to run high between the two countries, the Pakistani Navy said on March 5 that it had stopped an Indian submarine from entering its waters with a warning.

"The Indian submarine was not targeted, in line with the government's policy of maintaining peace," a naval spokesman said.

An Indian Navy spokesman rejected the Pakistani claim as "propaganda."

With reporting by AP, Reuters, AFP, and dpa
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