At least nine Indian troops and Kashmir militants died during a shootout on Monday, as tensions escalated following a suicide bombing attack that killed more than 40 Indian paramilitaries last week.
The fighting went on for several hours in the Pulwama district, south of India-administered Kashmir’s main city of Srinaga, where Indian soldiers were searching for militants tied to the Pakistan-based Islamist group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), which claimed last week’s attack.
Four soldiers, a policeman, three militants and a civilian were killed in the latest clash, officials said. An army major was among the dead, along with three militants from the JeM group.
Security force sources told Reuters news agency that the suspected organizer of the suicide bombing in the disputed region of Kashmir was also killed, echoing reports from local broadcaster NDTV.
India has blamed the suicide attack on Pakistan, which it says harbors the JeM group, and threatened a “jaw-breaking response.”
Pakistan has warned India against linking it to the attack without an investigation, saying that it was part of New Delhi’s “known rhetoric and tactics” to divert global attention from human rights violations in Kashmir.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday rejected the possibility of talks with Pakistan following the deadly bombing.
“The Pulwama terror attack shows that the time for talks is over,” Modi said in a reference to a possible dialogue with Islamabad to ease tensions. “Now the entire world needs to unite to take concrete steps to deal with terrorism and supporters. Not taking strict measures against terrorism and those against humanity, also encourages terrorism.”
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia said it would try to “de-escalate” rising tensions between Pakistan and India during a high-profile summit in Islamabad.
The kingdom’s foreign minister spoke at a press conference in Islamabad as Pakistan recalled its envoy from Delhi for “consultations.”
“Our objective is to try to de-escalate tensions between the two countries, neighboring countries, and to see if there is a path forward to resolving those differences peacefully,” said Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir.
India and Pakistan both administer parts of the border region of Kashmir, with both laying claim to more of the disputed territory. It’s one of the main disputes between the uneasy nuclear neighbors.
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