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India, Pakistan armies exchange fire in Kashmir for 4th straight day: report

SRINAGAR, Indian-controlled Kashmir, Aug. 13 (Xinhua) -- The armies of India and Pakistan Tuesday again exchanged fire on line- of-control (LoC) in Kashmir for the fourth straight day, officials said.

The ceasefire violation took place along the LoC in frontier Poonch district, around 185 km southwest of Srinagar city, the summer capital of Indian-controlled Kashmir. "Once again Pakistani troops violated ceasefire and fire on our posts with light automatic guns, small arms and mortars," said S N Acharaya, Indian army spokesman in Jammu.

"The firing started at 09:20 p.m. (local time) along Hamirpur and at 10:15 p.m. along Balakot." Acharaya said Indian army also retaliated to firing from Pakistani side and the exchange continued until Tuesday morning.

However, Indian army officials said they have not suffered any damage in the exchange.

Late on Monday, Islamabad summoned India's deputy high commissioner to register their protest, saying a civilian had been killed due to Indian firing in Pakistan-controlled part.

Last week, five Indian troops were killed and another wounded in a deadly ambush near Sarla in Poonch. India accused Pakistani troops of entering into their territory and carrying out the attack, a charge Pakistan denies.

Following the incident, a surge in ceasefire violations on LoC was recorded.

The killings and skirmishes on LoC have come at a time when New Delhi and Islamabad were trying to normalize ties and resume the talks. The killings, according to experts, are likely to overshadow the resumption of Indo-Pak dialogue process. Meanwhile, UN chief Ban Ki-moon has said his "offer of good office remains available" if both Indian and Pakistan agree to his (UN) mediation. "While I am saddened by the loss of lives in the course of all this conflict, I am relatively, reasonably encouraged by the recent move by both sides to engage in dialogue, to resolve their source of conflict through dialogue - that I will strongly welcome and support," he said.

"My offer of good office remains available. If both sides think this is useful and both sides agree, then I'll be ready to offer my good offices."

LoC is a de facto border that divides Kashmir into India and Pakistan controlled parts. New Delhi and Islamabad in 2003 agreed to observe a ceasefire along the international border and LoC in Kashmir. Though some violations have been reported on both sides, the ceasefire remains in effect. Kashmir, the Himalayan region divided between India and Pakistan is claimed by both in full. Since their Independence from British, the two countries have fought three wars, two exclusively over Kashmir.

In January this year, skirmishes between armies of the two nuclear neighbors claimed lives of five troopers (two from India and three from Pakistan). The both countries blamed each other of violating the ceasefire.

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