Pompeo urges restraint in India, Pakistan

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ISLAMABAD (AP) — The Latest on India-Pakistan tensions (all times local):

7 a.m.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is encouraging India and Pakistan to exercise restraint and avoid escalation after an Indian airstrike in Pakistani territory.

The statement from his spokesperson’s office said Pompeo spoke to government ministers of both countries by phone to emphasize the shared goal of peace and security in the region. Pompeo said he underscored to Pakistan the urgency of taking meaningful action against terrorist groups on its soil.

Pakistan said the Indian warplanes dropped bombs near the town of Balakot but there were no casualties. India said the airstrike early Tuesday hit a terrorist training camp and killed a large number of militants.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry has summoned India’s top diplomat in Islamabad to protest the airstrike and said the “Indian aggression” would get a “befitting response.”

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7:40 p.m.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry has summoned India’s top diplomat in Islamabad to protest the pre-dawn airstrike by India on Pakistani territory.

Pakistan says there were no casualties in the strike, while India says it hit a terrorist training camp and killed a “very large number” of militants early on Tuesday.

The ministry says the “Indian aggression was a threat to regional peace and stability and would get a befitting response by Pakistan at a time and place of its choosing.”

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6:35 p.m.

Pakistan has warned India after it carried out pre-dawn airstrikes on Pakistani territory, saying that it’s now Islamabad’s turn to “surprise” its rival.

Pakistan’s army spokesman Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor denounced India’s incursion and dismissed its claim of hitting a terrorist camp inside Pakistan early on Tuesday.

The raid ratcheted up tensions in the disputed region of Kashmir where tens of thousands of Indian and Pakistani troops face off against each other.

Ghafoor warned India: “Now it is your turn to wait for our response.”

He says Indian aircraft were in Pakistani airspace for just four minutes and turned back when Pakistani fighter jets challenged them. He says that before they left, the planes managed to drop four bombs near the town of Balakot, causing no casualties or damage.

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6:10 p.m.

India says Pakistani soldiers are firing mortar shells and small-arms fire along the boundary separating Pakistan’s and India’s sector of control in the disputed region of Kashmir.

Lt. Col. Devender Anand, an Indian army spokesman, says Pakistani troops are carrying out an “unprovoked” violation of the 2003 cease-fire along the so-called Line of Control by firing on Tuesday evening at the Nowshera, Poonch and Akhnoor sectors.

Anand said Indian soldiers are “strongly and befittingly” responding to the multiple Pakistani attacks along the highly militarized de-facto frontier.

Pakistan’s army did not immediately comment on India’s claim. Both countries regularly accuse one another of initiating skirmishes.

Shakir Ahmed, a resident of Poonch in Indian-controlled Kashmir, said people were hearing loud sounds of shelling. He says “people are afraid, it’s getting dark. We pray it doesn’t escalate into war.”

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4:15 p.m.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has denounced Indian statements that its fighter jets hit a militant camp in Pakistani town of Balakot as “fictitious.”

Khan’s remark came after a meeting of the country’s National Security Committee on Tuesday, hours after Pakistan said Indian aircraft dropped bombs on a deserted wooded area causing no casualties. India, however, says it killed a “very large number” of militants.

Khan says that “once again, the Indian government has resorted to a self- serving, reckless and fictitious claim” and added that the statements from India were “for domestic consumption” in the run-up to elections.

He says India risks “putting regional peace and stability at grave risk” and summoned a meeting of the Parliament for Wednesday.

According to the statement, Khan said that “India has committed uncalled for aggression to which Pakistan shall respond at the time and place of its choosing.”

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3:10 p.m.

China, a close Pakistani ally, is calling for restraint from both Islamabad and New Delhi to prevent a larger crisis.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters that it was “conducive to peace and stability in South Asian for the two sides to maintain a good relationship and good communication.”

Lu says China hopes “both India and Pakistan can exercise restraint and take actions that will help stabilize the situation in the region and help to improve mutual relations.”

Referring to India’s claim that its airstrike targeted terrorists, Lu said combatting terrorism “is a global issue and a global challenge. It requires cooperation between countries.”

India says it struck the biggest training camp of Jaish-e-Mohammad, a group that claimed to have carried out the Feb. 14 suicide bomb attack on Indian troops in Kashmir.

In 2017, China joined several nations to declare the Pakistan-based group and another one, Lashkar-e-Taiba, as terrorist organizations, a move praised by India and the U.S. However, Beijing has blocked India’s attempts to have Jaish-e-Mohammad leader Azhar Masood listed as a terrorist by the United Nations.

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2:55 p.m.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi says his country is in “safe hands,” hours after India carried out an airstrike inside Pakistani-controlled territory.

Modi, commenting on the early Tuesday strike, says that “today is a day to pay homage to India’s brave hearts,” — an apparent reference to 40 Indian soldiers killed in Feb. 14 suicide bombing in India-controlled Kashmir.

Modi spoke to a rally of former soldiers in the northern state of Rajasthan.

He says: “I vow that I will not let the country bow down.”

The strike comes as India pressed on with its crackdown against Kashmiri leaders and activists seeking the end of Indian rule over its section of the divided territory. So far, India has arrested 400 in the campaign.

The crackdown has mainly targeted Jama’at-e-Islami, Kashmir’s largest religious-political group that also espouses the right to self-determination for the Himalayan region.

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12:50 p.m.

Pakistan’s President Arif Alvi says India has created “hysteria” in the wake of this month’s attack on Indian troops in the disputed Kashmir region.

Addressing an international conference on media and conflict, Alvi on Tuesday warned that rhetoric “can lead to war.” He did not address an overnight incursion by Indian fighter jets. India says the jets struck a terrorist training camp, killing a large number of militants. Pakistan says there were no casualties.

Jaish-e-Mohammad, a militant group based in Pakistan, claimed the Feb, 14 attack. But Pakistan has denied any involvement in the bombing, which it says was planned and executed “indigenously.”

Alvi warned Tuesday that “we know how to defend ourselves.”

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11:45 a.m.

India says the airstrike it launched in Pakistan killed a “very large number” of militants, trainers and commanders in the group that carried out a deadly suicide bombing against Indian troops in the disputed territory earlier this month.

Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale says India struck “the biggest training camp” of Jaish-e-Mohammad in the Balakot region early Tuesday.

Tensions have soared between India and Pakistan since the Feb. 14 bombing, which killed 40 Indian troops and was the deadliest such attack since the Kashmir insurgency erupted in 1989. Pakistan has insisted it had nothing to do with the attack, but has vowed to respond to any Indian military operation against it.

Pakistan says the airstrike early Tuesday caused no casualties.

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11:20 a.m.

A junior minister in India says the country launched an airstrike in Pakistan targeting “terror camps,” an apparent response to a suicide attack earlier this month that killed 40 Indian troops in the disputed territory.

Gajendra Singh Shekhawat tweeted Tuesday that the air force “carried out aerial strike early morning today at terror camps across the LoC and Completely destroyed it.” The Line of Control separates Pakistani and Indian forces in Kashmir.

Pakistan said earlier that Indian aircraft crossed into its territory and dropped bombs “in haste” near Balakot, on the edge of Pakistani-ruled Kashmir. It said there were no casualties.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hosted the Cabinet Committee on Security Tuesday. No statement was issued after the meeting, but Human Resources Minister Prakash Javadekar told reporters: “This was a necessary step by the air force. The whole country is behind the armed forces.”

Tensions have soared between the two nuclear-armed rivals since the Feb. 14 attack on Indian troops, which was claimed by the Jaish-e-Mohammad militant group. It was the deadliest such attack since the Kashmir insurgency began in 1989. Both countries claim Kashmir in its entirety and have gone to war twice over it.

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9:30 a.m.

Pakistan’s military spokesman tweeted that Indian aircraft crossed into Pakistan and then “released payload in haste” but says there were casualties.

Maj. Gen Asif Ghafoor said the Indian “aircrafts” crossed early Tuesday into the Pakistan-controlled Muzafarabad sector of Kashmir. He said Pakistan scrambled fighter jets and before turning back, the Indian jets dropped their payloads near Balakot, on the edge of Pakistani-ruled Kashmir.

There has been no comment from India.

The incursion could have been in retaliation for a deadly Feb. 14 suicide bombing in India’s half of Kashmir that killed at least 40 troops. The Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad claimed responsibility. The bomber who made a video before the attack was a resident of Indian Kashmir.

Pakistan and India both lay claim to a united Kashmir.

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