Pakistan says Indian troops wounded 6 civilians

ISLAMABAD (AP) — The Pakistani military on Friday accused Indian troops of firing across the disputed Kashmir border and wounding six civilians, the latest in a series of alleged attacks that have sparked tension between the nuclear-armed rivals.

The violence along the border over the last 10 days threatens to derail an expressed desire from the leaders of both countries to improve relations after decades of war and animosity.

A Pakistani military official accused Indian troops of wounding the six civilians on Thursday in the Kotli sector of Pakistan-held Kashmir, across the border from the Mendhar sector on the Indian side.

An Indian government official, Omar Abdullah, said previously that two civilians, including a porter working for the Indian army, were wounded by Pakistani troops firing in Mendhar sector Thursday.

Pakistani and Indian military officials accused the other side of firing first. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity Friday in line with military policy.

The Pakistani official accused Indian troops of deliberately targeting civilian areas. But the Indian official denied the allegation, saying soldiers only targeted those areas from where they received fire.

The latest round of violence began two weeks ago when, according to the Indian military, 20 heavily-armed militants and Pakistani soldiers crossed the Kashmir border and killed five Indian troops.

The Pakistani military has denied that its soldiers killed any Indian troops and accused Indian soldiers of killing a pair of civilians and wounding eight others along the border in a series of incidents. It has said four soldiers were also wounded.

India and Pakistan have fought two wars over control of Kashmir since they received independence from Britain in 1947. The region is divided between the two countries and is claimed by both.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Thursday that relations with Pakistan could only improve once it prevented Islamic militants from using its territory to target India.

India feels that Islamabad is not doing enough to rein in the militants. It says the Pakistani military has nurtured the militants to fight a covert war over Kashmir, though Pakistan denies the claim.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has expressed concern over the recent violence on the Kashmir border and said he hopes it won’t derail efforts to improve ties between the two countries. He is especially interested in increasing cross-border trade to jumpstart Pakistan’s economy.

But India may be frustrated by Sharif’s failure to target the main anti-India militant group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is based in his party’s stronghold, central Punjab province.

Lashkar-e-Taiba is widely blamed for carrying out an attack on the Indian city of Mumbai in 2008 that killed 166 people.

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Associated Press writer Aijaz Hussain contributed to this report from Srinagar, India.

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