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Tuesday, 25 December, 2001, 19:07 GMT
Tension mounts in Kashmir
Indian soldier mans a position on the border
Troops have been moved up both sides of the border
The Indian Army has started evacuating villagers from its side of the border with Pakistan, as tension between the two nuclear powers continues to escalate following an attack on the Indian parliament ten days ago.

We are confronted with external and internal challenges. But our forces are prepared to face all challenges

General Musharraf
Both countries have moved extra troops and equipment towards the border and the ceasefire line that divides the province of Kashmir.

India says two Pakistan-based militant groups, Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad, were behind the attacks and has called on the government in Islamabad to take action against them.

Pakistan has placed the head of Jaish-e-Mohammad, Maulana Masood Azhar, under house arrest in the central province of Punjab.

We do not want war but war is being thrust on us and we will have to face it

Prime Minister Vajpayee

The Indian prime minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, said Delhi did not want war, but war was being thrust upon it and the country would have to face it.

Pakistan's military leader, President Pervez Musharraf, said the army was fully prepared for all challenges, but the country would have to proceed cautiously, because of its nuclear capability.

Exchange of fire

Overnight the two sides exchanged mortar fire for the second night running in the Jammu region of Kashmir.

Two Indian soldiers were reported to have been killed in the fighting, although this has not been independently confirmed.

Border skirmishes are frequent in Kashmir, though they have become more volatile since the Indian parliament attack.

Indian Army officials said more than 2,000 villagers had been moved to safety from south of Jammu, the winter capital of Jammu-Kashmir

India has also cancelled all military leave and moved thousands of soldiers and tanks into the border state of Rajasthan, according to reports from the region.

Pakistan has deployed anti-aircraft guns and transported troops from an eastern garrison town to its border with India, local sources told the Reuters news agency.

The Indian Army said its mortar fire had destroyed eight Pakistani bunkers in the Galahar sector, although Pakistan denied the claims.

'Highly explosive'

The situation was described by one senior Pakistani army officer as "highly explosive".

The BBC's Adam Mynott says that diplomatic moves are continuing, and India is also thought to be considering taking economic measures against Pakistan.

He says Kashmir continues to provide a fertile recruiting ground for militants, and what was originally a political separatist struggle is now attracting Pakistani and Afghan fighters motivated by religious convictions.

Militants operating in Indian-administered Kashmir
India accuses Pakistan of backing militant groups

Delhi has recalled its high commissioner, Vijay Nambiar, from Pakistan and severed transport links between the two countries - moves described by Pakistan's President Musharraf as arrogant.

On Sunday, Pakistan also accused India of kidnapping and torturing a staff member of its High Commission in Delhi, which India has strongly denied.

The staffer, Mohammad Sharif Khan, was expelled from India on Monday for "engaging in activities beyond his legitimate sphere of activity".

The BBC's Sanjay Dasgupta
"India recalled its high commissioner from Pakistan"
The BBC's Rachel Harvey
"After days of negotiation India capitulated"
The BBC's Zaffar Abbas
"General Musharaf seems to be pretty determined"
See also:

24 Dec 01 | South Asia
Kashmir police 'smash al-Qaeda cell'
24 Dec 01 | South Asia
Pakistan freezes militant funds
23 Dec 01 | South Asia
India-Pakistan tensions sharpen
21 Dec 01 | Americas
More groups join US terror blacklist
15 Dec 01 | South Asia
India steps up pressure on Pakistan
15 Dec 01 | South Asia
Suspects held over parliament raid
13 Dec 01 | South Asia
Pakistan leads world condemnation
18 Dec 01 | South Asia
India facing tough choices
23 Dec 01 | South Asia
Analysis: Al-Qaeda threat lives on
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