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Pilot Shot Down By Pakistan Returns To India

PAKISTAN - A man looks at television screen, airing live transmission of released Indian pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan, at Wagah border, in Karachi, on March 1.

An Indian pilot captured by Pakistani forces on February 27 after his warplane was shot down in the disputed region of Kashmir has returned to India after being freed by Islamabad in a "peace gesture."

Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman crossed into India at the Wagah crossing point on March 1 hours later than expected and sporting a black eye.

Varthaman's release came a day after Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan made the announcement in a speech to Pakistan's parliament on February 28.

Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman in Pakistani custody on February 27
Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman in Pakistani custody on February 27

Pakistan's military said its air force shot down two India Air Force jets in its airspace and captured a pilot on the ground in Pakistan-administered Kashmir on February 27.

India confirmed the loss of one of its MiG-21s and the capture of its pilot. It said it also foiled an attack by Pakistan warplanes over Kashmir and shot down one Pakistani plane.

Islamabad denies any of its aircraft were shot down.

The aerial confrontation came a day after India on February 26 struck what it said was a militant camp in northeastern Pakistan in retaliation for a suicide bombing that killed at least 41 Indian troops in the India-controlled part of Kashmir

A Pakistan-based group, the Jaish-e Muhammad (JeM), claimed responsibility for the February 14 attack -- the deadliest to take place during a three-decade insurgency against Indian rule in Kashmir.

India has accused Pakistan of having a "direct hand" in the attack and providing sanctuary to the militants.

Islamabad denies involvement.

India's air strikes in Pakistani territory on February 26 were the first since the Indo-Pakistan war of 1971.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP