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India-Pakistan tensions escalate after shootdown of fighter jets over Kashmir

By
Darryl Coote
Indian army soldiers stand near the wreckage of the aircraft after it crashed in central Kashmir's Budgam district. Pakistan has said it has shot down two Indian aircraft. Photo by Farooq Khan/EPA-EFE
Indian army soldiers stand near the wreckage of the aircraft after it crashed in central Kashmir's Budgam district. Pakistan has said it has shot down two Indian aircraft. Photo by Farooq Khan/EPA-EFE

Feb. 27 (UPI) -- Tensions between Pakistan and India escalated Wednesday when the Pakistani air force shot down two Indian fighter jets after they entered national airspace, authorities said.

Pakistan Armed Forces spokesman Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor said the two jets were downed after they had crossed the military line of control between the two nations -- one crashing into Pakistan's territory of Kashmir and the other into India's.

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"One Indian pilot arrested by troops on ground," Ghafoor said in a tweet. Ghafoor later said two pilots were in custody.

India's foreign ministry said it was missing a MiG21 fighter and its pilot. Pakistan's information ministry tweeted a video of a blindfolded man, purported to be one of the pilots. He identified himself as Wing-Commander Abhinandan. The video was later deleted.

India said it's still "ascertaining the facts" of what happened to the second jet.

The Pakistani government said it "undertook strikes across the line of control within Pakistani airspace" on "non-military targets, avoiding human loss and collateral damage."

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The purpose of the attack was to demonstrate its right to self-defense, it said.

"We have no intention of escalation, but are fully prepared to do so if forced into that paradigm. That is why we undertook the action with clear warning and in broad daylight," Pakistan's foreign affairs ministry said in a statement.

A Pakistani F-16 fighter has also been shot down after entering Indian airspace, Times of India reported.

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After the shootdown, Indian President Narendra Modi attended a security meeting while Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan called a meeting of his top decision-making body on nuclear issues.

Both countries lay claim to Kashmir, a Muslim-majority area in the northern region of the Indian continent, but control only segments of it. India's Jammu and Kashmir was the site of a deadly suicide bomb attack this month that escalated tensions.

On Feb. 14, a vehicle loaded with explosives was rammed into an Indian Central Reserve Police Force convoy, killing dozens. Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed claimed responsibility.

India swiftly blamed Pakistan for the attack as it allowed the U.N.-declared terrorist group safe harbor.

On Tuesday, 12 Indian fighter jets dropped 1,000-kilogram bombs on to an alleged Jaish-e-Mohammed training camp in Pakistan, killing an unknown number of people. After the attack, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he'd spoken with Indian officials to re-emphasize the nations' security partnership.

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