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Tuesday, June 1, 1999 Published at 14:55 GMT 15:55 UK

World: South Asia

'Children killed' in Kashmir shelling

Police guard the Pakistan High Commission in Delhi

Pakistan says seven children were killed when their school was hit by Indian mortar fire in Pakistani-administered Kashmir.

BBC Correspondent Zafar Abbas: "School hit by mortar shells"
The school is said to be located in Neelum valley, 120 km north-east of state capital, Muzaffarabad.

(Click here to see a map of the area)

Police say several other children were injured, but there has been no independent confirmation of the attack.

An earlier report had placed the number of children killed at nine.

Kashmir Conflict
The Indian Government has categorically denied the report. An Indian official decribed the reports as a figment of Pakistan's imagination.

India's External Affairs Minister, Jaswant Singh, is reported to have said that his country is facing "an armed intrusion."

"There will be no relenting on any ground operations or air operations until status quo ante is restored," Mr Singh is believed to have said.

David Willis reports: "Thousands of people have been forced to leave their homes"
BBC Correspondent, Owen Bennett-Jones says that Pakistan has accused India of mounting attacks across the border. Pakistan said its forces have repulsed three attacks by Indian forces along the line of control which divides Kashmir.

Indian military sources are quoted as saying fighting continued overnight against Pakistani-backed militants.

Fresh air raids were launched on Tuesday morning with Indian Mirage 2000 fighters pressed into service.

Close combat is also being reported under the cover of artillery and sniper fire.

The BBC's David Willis in Delhi says Indian military sources have reported a heavy troop build-up on the Pakistani side of the border.

He said India has also massed more than four times its normal troop size, although accurate figures are hard to come by on either side.

Diplomatic moves

[ image: Heavy artillery fire continued on day seven of the conflict]
Heavy artillery fire continued on day seven of the conflict
As the fighting continued, the Pakistani Foreign Minister, Sartaj Aziz, said he hopes to receive confirmation from India soon as to when he can travel to Delhi to begin talks aimed at easing the tension over Kashmir.

India has agreed to host Mr Aziz in Delhi - the first sign that the two sides might want to defuse the tensions over Kashmir.

On Monday, Indian Defence Minister George Fernandes outlined India's losses and said he was unable to place a time-frame on the conflict.

[ image:  ]
He said India had killed 320 militants and 150 Pakistan soldiers in fighting along the line of control.

In an earlier address, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said Pakistan was attempting to alter the frontier in Kashmir through "a kind of invasion."

He also accused Pakistan of preparing for the confrontation when the two nations were meant to be trying to improve relations.

India has said there will be no let up in its battle against the infiltrators.

It continued to press on with their effort to force out the well armed and well entrenched infiltrators from rocky Himalayan ledges, overlooking mountain roads and supply routes.

Pakistan has rejected India's claims of success.

The official Pakistani news agency has said that the rebels are firmly entrenched and have made considerable gains against the Indian army.

Pilot killed

India has lost two war planes and a helicopter in the conflict. One Indian pilot is being held in Pakistan as a prisoner of war.

India has said that another pilot, Squadron Leader Ahuja, had died of bullet wounds after his aircraft came down in Pakistani territory.

Pakistan has rejected India's allegation that Pakistani soldiers had murdered the pilot in cold blood.

India says the forces that have crossed over into their territory are mostly Islamic insurgents from Afghanistan, supported by Pakistani army regulars.

Pakistan denies any of its troops are involved with the infiltrators and has accused India of hitting its territory in the air strikes.

The two countries - now nuclear powers since last May's nuclear tests - have fought three wars since independence in 1947, two of them over Kashmir.

The international community has reacted with alarm to the air strikes, the first by India in Kashmir for more than 20 years.

[ image:  ]

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