Pakistan captures two Indian pilots after aircraft shot down

Pakistan's military said it has captured two Indian pilots after the Pakistani air force shot down their aircraft on its side of the disputed region of Kashmir.

The civil aviation authority of Pakistan announced that it has shut its airspace to all commercial flights amid the escalating tensions with its neighbour.

The dramatic escalation came hours after Pakistan said mortar shells fired by Indian troops from across the frontier dividing the two sectors of Kashmir killed six civilians and wounded several others.

Major General Asif Ghafoor said one of the captured Indian pilots is injured and is being treated in a military hospital, while the other pilot is in custody.

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Indian soldiers and Kashmiri onlookers stand near the remains of an Indian Air Force helicopter after it crashed in Budgam district, outside Srinagar on February 27, 2019. - Officials said an investigation was underway into the cause of the crash, which came as Pakistan claimed to have shot down two Indian fighter jets in the divided and disputed Kashmir region. (Photo by Tauseef MUSTAFA / AFP) (Photo credit should read TAUSEEF MUSTAFA/AFP/Getty Images)
Indian soldiers and Kashmiri onlookers stand near the remains of an Indian Air Force helicopter after it crashed in Budgam district, outside Srinagar on February 27, 2019. - Officials said an investigation was underway into the cause of the crash, which came as Pakistan claimed to have shot down two Indian fighter jets in the divided and disputed Kashmir region. (Photo by Tauseef MUSTAFA / AFP) (Photo credit should read TAUSEEF MUSTAFA/AFP/Getty Images)
Indian soldiers and Kashmiri onlookers stand near the remains of an Indian Air Force helicopter after it crashed in Budgam district, outside Srinagar on February 27, 2019. - Officials said an investigation was underway into the cause of the crash, which came as Pakistan claimed to have shot down two Indian fighter jets in the divided and disputed Kashmir region. (Photo by Tauseef MUSTAFA / AFP) (Photo credit should read TAUSEEF MUSTAFA/AFP/Getty Images)
UPDATING CAPTION Indian soldiers and Kashmiri onlookers stand on a field as an Indian army helicopter lands near the site where an Indian Air Force helicopter crashed in Budgam district, on the outskirts of Srinagar on February 27, 2019. - Officials said an investigation was underway into the cause of the crash, which came as Pakistan claimed to have shot down two Indian fighter jets in the divided and disputed Kashmir region. (Photo by Tauseef MUSTAFA / AFP) / UPDATING CAPTION (Photo credit should read TAUSEEF MUSTAFA/AFP/Getty Images)
UPDATING CAPTION Indian soldiers and Kashmiri onlookers stand look on as an Indian army helicopter lands near the site where an Indian Air Force helicopter crashed in Budgam district, on the outskirts of Srinagar on February 27, 2019. - Officials said an investigation was underway into the cause of the crash, which came as Pakistan claimed to have shot down two Indian fighter jets in the divided and disputed Kashmir region. (Photo by Tauseef MUSTAFA / AFP) / UPDATING CAPTION (Photo credit should read TAUSEEF MUSTAFA/AFP/Getty Images)
UPDATING CAPTION Indian soldiers and Kashmiri onlookers stand near the remains of an Indian Air Force helicopter after it crashed in Budgam district, on the outskirts of Srinagar on February 27, 2019. - Officials said an investigation was underway into the cause of the crash, which came as Pakistan claimed to have shot down two Indian fighter jets in the divided and disputed Kashmir region. (Photo by Tauseef MUSTAFA / AFP) / UPDATING CAPTION (Photo credit should read TAUSEEF MUSTAFA/AFP/Getty Images)
UPDATING CAPTION Indian soldiers stand guard near the remains of an Indian Air Force helicopter after it crashed in Budgam district, on the outskirts of Srinagar on February 27, 2019. - Officials said an investigation was underway into the cause of the crash, which came as Pakistan claimed to have shot down two Indian fighter jets in the divided and disputed Kashmir region. (Photo by Tauseef MUSTAFA / AFP) / UPDATING CAPTION (Photo credit should read TAUSEEF MUSTAFA/AFP/Getty Images)
UPDATING CAPTION Indian soldiers gesture near the remains of an Indian Air Force helicopter after it crashed in Budgam district, outside Srinagar on February 27, 2019. - Officials said an investigation was underway into the cause of the crash, which came as Pakistan claimed to have shot down two Indian fighter jets in the divided and disputed Kashmir region. (Photo by Tauseef MUSTAFA / AFP) / UPDATING CAPTION (Photo credit should read TAUSEEF MUSTAFA/AFP/Getty Images)
A man looks at television screens, after Pakistan shot down two Indian planes, at a shop in Karachi, Pakistan February 27, 2019. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro
India's Border Security Force (BSF) soldiers patrol along the fenced border with Pakistan in Ranbir Singh Pura sector near Jammu February 26, 2019. REUTERS/Mukesh Gupta
People burn an effigy depicting Pakistan as they celebrate after Indian authorities said their jets conducted airstrikes on militant camps in Pakistani territory, in Ahmedabad, India, February 26, 2019. REUTERS/Amit Dave TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
People burn a poster depicting India's flag against what they call airspace violation by the Indian military aircrafts, in a protest in Peshawar, Pakistan February 26, 2019. REUTERS/Fayaz Aziz
A Pakistani F-16 fighter drops flares during celebrations to mark Defence Day at the Nur Khan military airbase in Islamabad on September 6, 2016. Pakistan on September 6 celebrated the 51st anniversary of its second war with arch-rival India weeks after the two nuclear powers faced off in some of their deadliest skirmishes in over a decade. The major fighting of the war took place between August and September 1965 with both sides claiming victory after it ended in stalemate following the intervention of the United States and Soviet Union. / AFP / AAMIR QURESHI (Photo credit should read AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images)
Supporters of a Pakistani religious group Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba hold a rally against India, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. Pakistan's air force shot down two Indian warplanes after they crossed the boundary between the two nuclear-armed rivals in the disputed territory of Kashmir on Wednesday and captured one Indian pilot, a military spokesman said. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)
Supporters of a Pakistani religious group Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba chant slogans at a rally to condemn Indian aggression, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. Pakistan's air force shot down two Indian warplanes after they crossed the boundary between the two nuclear-armed rivals in the disputed territory of Kashmir on Wednesday and captured one Indian pilot, a military spokesman said. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)
Pakistani Kashmiris walk past India-bound cargo trucks, parked as road is closed to Indian Kashmir, in the border town of Chakoti at Line of Control in Pakistani Kashmir, Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. Pakistan said India launched an airstrike on its territory early Tuesday that caused no casualties, while India said it targeted a terrorist training camp in a pre-emptive strike that killed a "very large number" of militants. (AP Photo/Abdul Razaq)
An Indian man shouts slogans during a gathering to celebrate reports of Indian aircrafts bombing Pakistan territory, in New Delhi, India, Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. A pre-dawn airstrike inside Pakistan that India said targeted a terrorist training camp and killed a "very large number" of militants ratcheted up tensions on Tuesday between the two nuclear-armed rivals at odds over the disputed territory of Kashmir. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
An Indian woman offers sweets to an Indian police officer as she along with others celebrate reports of Indian aircrafts bombing Pakistan territory in Mumbai, India, Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. Pakistan says India launched an airstrike on its territory early Tuesday that caused no casualties, while India said it targeted a terrorist training camp in a pre-emptive strike that killed a "very large number" of militants. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)
Pakistan villagers cross a bridge in Balakot, Pakistan, Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. Maj. Gen Asif Ghafoor, a military spokesman, said the Indian "aircrafts" crossed into the Pakistan-controlled Muzafarabad sector of Kashmir, which is split between the two countries but claimed by each in its entirety. He said Pakistan scrambled fighters and the Indian jets "released payload in haste," near Balakot, on the edge of Pakistani-ruled Kashmir. (AP Photo/Aqeel Ahmed)
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The military said an Indian Air Force plane was downed on the Pakistani side of the Line of Control in Kashmir – a boundary separating the disputed Himalayan region between the nuclear-armed neighbours.

Indian air force spokesman Anupam Banerjee in New Delhi said he had no information on Pakistan's statement.

Earlier, senior Indian police officer Munir Ahmed Khan said an Indian Air Force plane crashed in Indian-controlled sector of Kashmir and that it was not immediately known if there were casualties.

Pakistan India Tensions
Pakistani reporters and troops visit the site of an Indian air strike in Jaba, near Balakot, on Tuesday (Aqeel Ahmed/AP)

Another police officer, SP Pani, said firefighters were at the site in the Budgam area where the Indian warplane crashed.

Eyewitnesses said soldiers fired into the air to keep residents away from the crash site.

Indian news reports said airports in the Indian portion of Kashmir closed for civilian traffic shortly after the air force jet crashed in the area.

The Press Trust of India news agency said these airports were located at Srinagar, Jammu and Leh. Indian authorities declined to comment.

Indian administrator Baseer Khan confirmed that the airport in Srinagar, the main city in Indian-controlled Kashmir, was closed and said it was a "temporary and precautionary measure".

The Press Trust of India said Indian authorities also closed two airports in northern Punjab state, which borders with Pakistan.

Meanwhile, the foreign ministry in Islamabad said the country's air force was carrying out air strikes from within Pakistani airspace across the disputed Kashmir boundary, but that this was not in "retaliation to continued Indian belligerence".

The ministry said Wednesday's strikes were aimed at "avoiding human loss and collateral damage".

It said the Pakistanis have "no intention of escalation, but are fully prepared to do so if forced into that paradigm. That is why we undertook the action with clear warning and in broad daylight".

According to local Pakistani police official Mohammad Altaf, the six fatalities in Wednesday's shelling included children.

The shells hit the village of Kotli in Pakistan's section of Kashmir.

Kashmir is split between Pakistan and India and claimed by both in its entirety.

Pakistan Indian Tensions
Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi speaks after the Indian air strike (Anjum Naveed/AP)

Though Pakistani and Indian troops in Kashmir often trade fire, the latest civilian casualties on the Pakistani side came a day after tensions escalated sharply following a pre-dawn air strike and incursion by India on Tuesday that New Delhi said targeted a terrorist training camp in north-western Pakistan.

Residents on both sides of the de facto frontier said there were exchanges of fire between the two sides through the night.

In Pakistan's part of Kashmir, hundreds of villagers have fled border towns.

The situation was no different in villages along the Line of Control in Indian-controlled Kashmir, where residents were moving to safer places following the intense exchange of fire.

In New Delhi, Indian officials said on Wednesday at least five of their soldiers were wounded in firing by Pakistani troops along the volatile frontier.

Lieutenant Colonel Devender Anand, an Indian army spokesman, said Pakistani soldiers targeted dozens of Indian military positions across the Line of Control throughout the night.

Pakistan India Kashmir
A Pakistani soldier watches movement of Indian forces along the Line of Control earlier this month (MD Mughal/AP)

An Indian military statement said that "out of anger and frustration", Pakistan "initiated unprovoked ceasefire violation".

The statement said Indian troops "retaliated for effect" and claimed to have destroyed five Pakistani posts.

It accused Pakistani soldiers of firing mortars and missiles "from civilian houses, using villagers as human shields".

In Tuesday's pre-dawn strike by India, Pakistan said Indian warplanes dropped bombs near the Pakistani town of Balakot, but there were no casualties.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is expected to convene the National Command Authority on Wednesday to discuss Islamabad's response to the incursions by Indian warplanes.

On Wednesday, Pakistan's foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told state-run Pakistan Television he was in touch with his counterparts across the world about the "Indian aggression", adding that New Delhi had endangered peace in the region by launching an air strike on Pakistan.

In New Delhi, India's external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said her country does not wish to see further escalation of the situation with Pakistan and that it will continue to act with responsibility and restraint.

She said the limited objective of India's pre-emptive strike inside Pakistan on a terrorist training camp on Tuesday was to act decisively against the terrorist infrastructure of the Jaish-e-Mohammad group.

The tension between Pakistan and India erupted again after Jaish-e-Mohammad claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing of a convoy of India's paramilitary forces in the Indian portion of Kashmir on February 14, which killed 40 Indian troops.

Pakistan has said it was not involved in the attack and stands ready to help New Delhi in its investigations.

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