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November 14, 2016

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan’s military says Indian troops fired on its soldiers in Kashmir on Monday, killing seven of them and prompting return fire, as officials warned that the tense standoff between the nuclear-armed rivals could escalate.

The two sides have traded fire repeatedly in recent weeks across the Line of Control, which divides the Himalayan region into Indian and Pakistani-controlled zones. The two nuclear rivals each claim the entire territory, and have fought two of their three wars over it.

“The international community should pay attention,” Pakistani Defense Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif told Geo News TV. “It can escalate. This could be catastrophic for the region.” He added that Pakistani troops had also inflicted losses on the Indian army, without elaborating.

An Indian army officer said Pakistan had fired on Indian troops in a breach of the cease-fire, and that they “effectively retaliated.” The officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters, said there were no casualties on the Indian side.

The latest escalation was set off by a September attack on an Indian military base by Pakistani militants. India blamed the attack on Pakistan, which has denied involvement. Tensions have run high since Indian troops killed a Kashmiri militant leader in July. The killing ignited some of the most violent protests in years, and dozens of people have been killed in India’s resulting crackdown.

Pakistani foreign affairs adviser Sartaj Aziz said there has been an increase in the duration and frequency of indiscriminate firing by India, which has in recent weeks killed 26 civilians and wounded over 100 in villages near the frontier.

“The Indian actions, which constituted a threat to the maintenance of peace and security, may lead to strategic miscalculation,” he said.

Associated Press writer Aijaz Hussain in Srinagar, India contributed.

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