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Thousands of Flights Canceled After Pakistan Closes Airspace

Shopkeepers watch the speech of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, after Pakistan shot down two Indian military aircrafts, at a shop selling television screens in Karachi, Pakistan, Feb. 27, 2019.

Escalating tensions between India and Pakistan continued Thursday with armed skirmishes between the nuclear-armed rivals and the closure of Pakistani airspace stranding thousands of air passengers.

Pakistani and Indian forces briefly traded fire across the contested border in Kashmir Thursday. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

Pakistan shut down its civilian airspace Wednesday after it said it shot down two Indian warplanes that had flown over to its side of the Line of Control, the de facto border in the disputed Kashmir region, and captured one Indian pilot. New Delhi also claims it shot down a Pakistani fighter jet, a claim denied by Pakistan.

The decision by Islamabad to close off its airspace forced Thai Airlines to cancel all flights to and from Bangkok to most of the major cities in Europe, leaving nearly 5,000 passengers scrambling to find alternative flights. Thai Airlines later received permission from China to fly over its airspace.

Several other airlines, including Singapore Airlines and British Airways, were forced to reroute several flights to avoid Pakistan's airspace.

Pakistan and India have moved closer to the brink of war since 40 Indian paramilitary forces were killed in a suicide attack in the town of Pulwama in India-controlled Kashmir. New Delhi has accused Pakistan of shielding the militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed, which has claimed responsibility for the suicide attack.

Indian jets entered Pakistani airspace Tuesday, for the first time since 1971 when the two countries went to war, to destroy what they said were JeM's training camps near Balakot in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Social media videos by locals from the area showed the strike hit a sparsely populated wooded area.