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India Says Pakistani Troops Shoot to Cover for Militants

Indian border patrol officials say Pakistani forces have fired on Indian personnel, in an attempt to provide cover for militants trying to cross into Indian-controlled Kashmir. VOA's Suzanne Presto has more from New Delhi.

India's Border Security Force said two Indian troops were injured in the shooting. The firefight occurred near Akhnoor, about 300 kilometers south of Srinagar.

Border Security spokesman Prem Singh told VOA that the firing started on the Pakistani side. He said Pakistani border forces, known as Rangers, were providing cover for militants as they attempted to sneak across the international boundary into Indian-held territory.

"[The] infiltration attempt was coordinated with the heavy volume of fire, from the Pakistan Ranger side, also," he said.

Singh said the incident began before three o'clock in the morning, and the two sides exchanged fire for as long as 30 minutes.

He said two members of India's border patrol were injured. One is in serious condition in a military hospital, he said, while the other is out of danger.

He also said none of the militants was apprehended.

"In the ensuing fire, the militants managed to escape back toward Pakistan," he said.

Pakistani officials were not available to comment on the allegations.

New Delhi has repeatedly accused elements inside Pakistan of supporting militants operating in Indian-controlled Kashmir and elsewhere in the country. Islamabad has denied the accusations.

Pakistan and India both lay claim to the disputed Kashmir region. The two nations have gone to war twice over Kashmir, and their troops have faced off along the unofficial border for decades.

The nuclear-armed neighbors announced a ceasefire in November of 2003. Mr. Singh said this incident was the first time that Indian troops had been fired upon by Pakistani forces since the ceasefire.

Only days ago, Indian and Pakistani officials held talks to review their slow-moving peace dialogue. On Saturday, officials announced that a new round of peace talks will begin in March, and a joint anti-terrorism group is to be created.