The Indian army launched a major assault on the Pakistani positions near the de facto Line of Control (LoC) on Wednesday (23 November) morning after three of its soldiers were killed by terrorists on Tuesday. One of the killed soldiers near the border in Jammu and Kashmir was mutilated by the militants allegedly backed by the Pakistani army.

New Delhi said militants infiltrated into Indian territories using the cover fire provided by the Pakistani military to launch a scathing attack. However, this version has been strongly contested by Islamabad.

Soon after the killings the Indian army had promised "heavy retribution" for the "cowardly act".

"A fire assault was launched at 9am on the Pakistani posts in the Kel sector and downwards," a senior army official told the Hindu shortly after the Indian forces began the offensive.

The entire stretch of the lengthy LoC has become a hot zone after multiple firings have been reported in areas such as Poonch, Rajori, Kel and Machil, hinting that the Indian forces have mounted a coordinated assault and not a sporadic fight.

Meanwhile, Pakistani authorities have alleged that the Indian retaliation has claimed the lives of several civilians after the troops fired at an ambulance and civilian vehicles.

"Indian troops hit a passenger coaster with small and big arms in the town of Lawat, killing nine passengers and injuring 11 others. Four bodies and all 11 injured persons have arrived in District Headquarters Hospital Athmuqam, but five bodies are still in the coaster," Jamil Mir, Superintendent of Police in Neelum Valley, told the Dawn. At least 11 people have been killed in the shelling, reports the Associated Press.

The Inter-Services Public Relations (Ispr), the media wing of the Pakistani army, has also said there civilian casualties from the Indian attack. The Pakistani agency added: "Indian troops targeted a civilian bus near the LoC in Neelum Valley. An intense exchange of fire is ongoing as Pakistani troops target Indian posts."

The latest escalation of violation comes at a crucial time when Pakistan army chief Raheel Sharif's tenure is scheduled to end and the civilian leadership is looking for a new powerful figure to lead the army. Sharif is retiring by the end of November and the hunt for his successor has already begun.