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Pakistan Says It Shot Down Two Indian Jets, Captured Pilots In Kashmir Escalation


Pakistani soldiers stand next to what Islamabad says is the wreckage of an Indian fighter jet shot down in Pakistan-administered Kashmir near the Line of Control on February 27.
Pakistani soldiers stand next to what Islamabad says is the wreckage of an Indian fighter jet shot down in Pakistan-administered Kashmir near the Line of Control on February 27.

Pakistan says it has shot down two India Air Force jets over the disputed region of Kashmir and captured two pilots on the ground.

The Pakistani military said the country's air force shot down the warplanes on February 27 after they had crossed the Line of Control (LoC) that serves as a de facto border in Kashmir.

Spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor said that one of the planes crashed in Pakistan-administered Kashmir and the other went down in the Indian-controlled part of the Himalayan region.

Ghafoor also said that one of the captured Indian pilots was wounded and was being treated in a military hospital. The other pilot was in custody, he added.

An Indian Air Force spokesman said he had no information on Pakistan's claims, but reports from India said that an Indian jet had crashed in India-administered Kashmir.

An unidentified police officer said that two pilots and a civilian were killed in the crash, the Reuters news agency reported.

Pakistan earlier said it had launched air strikes across the LoC, while Indian authorities said the Pakistani warplanes had been pushed back.

The developments come a day after Indian warplanes carried out an air strike in northeastern Pakistan on what New Delhi said was a militant training camp.

Tensions have been high between Islamabad and New Delhi since a February 14 suicide attack that killed at least 41 Indian troops in Muslim-majority Kashmir, which is claimed by both countries.

Amid the escalation, Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said that it had closed the country’s airspace to commercial flights “until further notice," while Indian authorities have reportedly shut several airports in northern India and Kashmir.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was expected to address the nation later in the day.

The Pakistani Foreign Office released a statement saying that the air force "undertook strikes" across the LoC that were aimed at a "nonmilitary target," adding: "We have no intention of escalation."

It did not mention shooting down planes.

Earlier in the day, Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj sought to ease the situation, saying his country "does not wish to see further escalation.”

“India will continue to act with responsibility and restraint," Swaraj said during a visit to China.

Ghafoor told a press conference in Rawalpindi that Pakistan also “does not want escalation” and called for talks with New Delhi.

“We do not want to go towards war," he said.

Also on February 27, Pakistani police said that Indian troops fired mortar shells across the LoC, killing six civilians.

India said its air strike early on February 26 killed "a very large number" of militants. Pakistan denied there had been casualties, but has warned that it will respond to what it called Indian “aggression.”

The Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) militant group claimed responsibility for the February 14 attack on Indian security forces.

India says its neighbor had a "direct hand" in the attack and accuses it of providing sanctuary to the militants. Islamabad denies involvement.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called on India and Pakistan to avoid further military activity.

In the February 26 statement, Pompeo said he had spoken with his Indian and Pakistani counterparts.

"I expressed to both ministers that we encourage India and Pakistan to exercise restraint, and avoid escalation at any cost. I also encouraged both ministers to prioritize direct communication and avoid further military activity," he said.

The European Union and China, a Pakistani ally, have also urged India and Pakistan to exercise “restraint” after the Indian air strike in Pakistani territory.

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

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa, and Radio Mashaal

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