Indian forces killed nine Pakistani civilians and three soldiers Wednesday in separate incidents, the latest flare-ups between the nuclear-armed neighbors over a region they both claim as their own.
Indian security forces violated a cease-fire in seven sectors along the heavily militarized Line of Control, as the border is known, according to the Pakistani army's media wing, Inter-Services Public Relations.
The Indian military's director-general of operations, Lt. Gen. Ranbir Singh, spoke to his Pakistani counterpart to express "grief at Pakistani civilian casualties" but said Indian troops attacked in response to Pakistani cross-border firing.
Pakistan said Indian artillery fire struck a passenger bus traveling through the Neelam valley, killing seven civilians and injuring four. Two others were killed in a separate incident when Indian troops attacked an ambulance near the Line of Control, the Pakistani army said.
"Three Pakistani soldiers valiantly embraced martyrdom at the Line of Control while responding to unprovoked Indian firing," the army said in a statement.
Pakistan's foreign office summoned the Indian deputy high commissioner in Islamabad to protest the incidents.
India and Pakistan have exchanged accusations of unprovoked attacks for two months, since a deadly raid against an Indian army headquarters in the territory of Kashmir, which both countries claim in its entirety. The violence has sunk relations between the countries to their lowest point in years, torpedoing hopes of a rapprochement under right-wing Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
A senior official in Pakistan's foreign office said Indian troops had violated the cease-fire along the border 230 times in the last 2½ months, causing 44 deaths, 34 of them civilians.
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also condemned the Indian attack on the bus.
"Despite our exercise of maximum restraint in the wake of continuing naked Indian aggression … India has failed to comprehend the gravity of the situation," Sharif said.
Sharif accused India of trying to divert attention from a crisis in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir, a majority-Muslim territory where civilians have waged four months of protests against the Indian army presence. Scores of civilians have been killed by security forces, and dozens of schools and government installations have been attacked.
"Pakistan will never abandon their Kashmiri brethren and will continue to support them in their just and legitimate freedom struggle for their right to self-determination," Sharif said.
Sahi is a special correspondent.
Times staff writer Shashank Bengali contributed from Mumbai, India.
7:54 a.m.: This story was updated throughout with staff reporting.