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Monday, August 23, 1999 Published at 11:51 GMT 12:51 UK

World: South Asia

Third day of India Bangladesh clashes

At least six civilians have been injured in three days of tension over a disputed island on the India-Bangladesh border.

Five people in the Indian town of Belonia, close to the border, have been hurt - among them two school-children. One member of the Indian Border Security Force (BSF) has also been wounded.

And according to Colonel Shawkat Hossain of the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), one Bangladeshi civilian was wounded by automatic weapon fire on Tuesday morning.

The border between India's Tripura state and the Feni region of south-eastern Bangladesh is marked by the river Muhuri.

The Indian authorities continue to blame the BDR for starting the exchange of fire on Sunday morning - but the Bangladeshis insist that their troops retaliated to "unprovoked" Indian shooting.

BSF deputy Inspector-General Ajit Singh said on Monday that farmers from Belonia were attacked by BDR border guards when the farmers went to harvest on Muhurichar, a small mid-river island.

Mr Singh told the BBC that he had contacted his Bangladeshi counterparts to arrange a "flag meeting" between commanders late on Tuesday.

Colonel Hossain of the BDR said there had been a "pause" in the stand-off early on Tuesday morning, after which, he said, "the Indians started firing again".

The BBC correspondent in Calcutta, Subhir Bhaumik, says ownership of Muhurichar has been disputed by the two countries since Bangladesh was established.

Our correspondent says that, since the 70s, there have been several exchanges of fire between the opposing border forces.

In 1985, heavy mortars were used in one of the more intensive clashes.

But our correspondent quotes Indian foreign ministry officials as saying the most recent incident was a "localised dispute" which did not reflect improving relations between the two neighbours.

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