Pakistan shoots down two Indian fighter jets: Military

Pakistan military claims that they shot down two Indian aircraft inside its airspace and captured two pilots.

Islamabad, Pakistan – Pakistan shot down two Indian air force fighter jets and launched air strikes at six targets in Indian-administered Kashmir, its military says, in a dramatic ratcheting up of tensions between the two nuclear armed neighbours.

The Indian air force jets were shot down over Pakistani airspace in Pakistan-administered Kashmir on Wednesday, a day after Indian aircraft launched airstrikes on Pakistani territory, Pakistani military spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor said.

Two Indian air force pilots were taken into custody, Ghafoor said, with one of them being treated for wounds at a military hospital.

India has denied Pakistani claims, saying “all our pilots are accounted for”.

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Separately, Ghafoor said that Pakistani aircraft had fired on six targets in Indian-administered Kashmir, hitting “open spaces” as a demonstration of Pakistan’s capability to hit Indian targets. The intention, the military spokesperson said, was not to cause any civilian or military casualties.

“Sole purpose was to demonstrate our right, will and capability for self-defence,” read a Pakistani foreign office statement released shortly after the strikes. “We have no intention of escalation but are fully prepared to do so if forced into that paradigm.”

Speaking to reporters at military headquarters in Rawalpindi, Ghafoor said Pakistan did not wish to escalate hostilities and urged India to engage in dialogue.

“This was not a retaliation in true sense, but to tell Pakistan has capability, we can do it, but we want to be responsible, we don’t want an escalation, we don’t want a war,” he told a news conference.

Airspace closed

Police officials in Indian-administered Kashmir said that two pilots and a civilian had died after an Indian air force plane crashed in Kashmir, but did not confirm if the plane had been shot down by Pakistani forces.

Also on Wednesday, Pakistan closed its airspace for all commercial flights, the Civil Aviation Authority said in a notice.

Several airports in northern India were also closed, forcing airlines to cancel service to least six cities.

Tensions have been high between the nuclear armed neighbours since a February 14 suicide attack killed at least 42 Indian security forces personnel in the Indian-administered Kashmir town of Pulwama.

India blamed Pakistan for “controlling” that attack, and Prime Minister Modi vowed to take military action to retaliate. The attack was claimed by armed group Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM), which has had a presence in Pakistan. The Pakistan government and military deny any involvement in the attack.

On Tuesday, Indian aircraft entered Pakistani airspace in Pakistan-administered Kashmir to fire four bombs that landed in the village of Jaba, about 10km outside of Kashmir in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

In a foreign ministry statement, India claimed it had destroyed a “Jaish-e-Muhammad camp” in Jaba, but Pakistan’s military and witnesses at the scene said the bombs struck a mostly uninhabited forest. One man was wounded in the strikes, with local hospital officials reporting no other casualties.

It was the first time Indian jets had entered and fired while within Pakistani airspace since a war between the two countries in 1971.

India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars over the disputed territory of Kashmir, which both claim in full but administer separate portions of, divided by the Line of Control.

Indian officials said that two pilots and a civilian had died after an air force plane crashed in Indian-administered Kashmir [Danish Ismail/Reuters]

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS