At least 15 Pakistani troops have been killed by Indian forces over the last week in multiple cross-border firing incidents, officials in New Delhi claim. India's Border Security Forces (BSF) said their initial assessment suggests two of them were Pakistani Frontier Force soldiers and 13 Rangers.

Both India and Pakistan have been accusing each other of violating the ceasefire agreement along several frontier points in recent days. The rival neighbours, between whom tensions are sharply escalating in recent months, blame each other for the rising violence.

"There are ceasefire violations repeatedly; we are giving a befitting reply. As far as our people have seen, what we have assessed is at least 15 rangers have been killed," said senior BSF officer Arun Kumar on Friday (28 October).

The Indian forces went on to accuse the Pakistani military and rangers of providing cover fire for infiltration bids by extremists. "The rockets aimed at the BSF last week in fact were from the terrorists. It seems the Pakistani Rangers and the Border Action Teams provide cover to the terrorists," Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of the BSF, Dharmendra Pareek, told Indian daily The Hindu.

Pakistani forces reportedly resorted to mortar shelling on at least 24 Indian posts and civilian areas overnight along the Line of Control (LoC) and the international border in Jammu, Kathua and Rajouri districts.

They used small arms, automatic weapons, 82mm mortars and 120mm mortars during the ceasefire violation, which started at around 5.20pm local time (12.50pm BST) on Thursday (27 October) an Indian defence spokesman said.

The heavy firing reportedly sparked panic among the people residing in villages near the border, with some reports claiming that around 400 families have fled their homes. More than a dozen heads of cattle have reportedly perished.

The Indian army retaliated "appropriately and befittingly" by firing at the Pakistani Rangers, Pareek said.

"There was unprovoked ceasefire violation by the Pakistan Army in Sunderbani, Pallanwala and Nowshera sectors of Rajouri and Jammu districts on Friday," the spokesman added.

Although no casualties of forces were reported on the Indian side on Friday, the BSF said one Indian girl was injured in the Pakistani firing. But "some Pakistani posts and villages have suffered heavy damage", according to a BSF officer.

Thursday's firing killed one BSF official and injured 10 civilians, while the Indian forces killed a Pakistani Ranger in "retaliatory fire". It is thought to be the third death of an Indian soldier in Pakistani firing in less than a week.

Pakistan has reportedly resorted to more than 40 ceasefire violations since the Indian army carried out surgical strikes in September that are said to have killed two Pakistani soldiers and 38 militants.

Indian Minister of Home Affairs, Rajnath Singh, asked the BSF to give a "fitting response" to the firing and ceasefire violations, NDTV reported.

Line of Control (LoC) in Poonch
Skirmishes between arch-rivals India and Pakistan are reported to be common along the border at the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir ~File photo Reuters

Skirmishes between the two nuclear-armed arch-rivals are common along the border, but the attacks intensified after Indian troops hit back at the Pakistan army and killed one of its soldiers.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the recent escalation of violence, saying: "As a responsible sovereign state, we have been endeavouring for regional peace and stability for the collective betterment and prosperity of the residents of South Asia. It is unfortunate that our initiative and efforts have not been reciprocated by India," The Express Tribune quoted.

"India should investigate the recent incident and share the findings with Pakistan, instruct its troops to respect the ceasefire in letter and spirit, and refrain from intentionally targeting the villages and maintain peace on the Working Boundary and the LoC," Sharif added.