At Least 10 Pakistani Soliders
Killed In Cross-Border Firing


(AFP) - At least 10 Pakistani soldiers were killed in cross-border firing in Kashmir, an Indian army spokesman said.

Major R. Lal said the firing took place in the border area of Poonch, 240 kilometres (150 miles) northwest of Jammu, Kashmir's winter capital.

He said the firing began when Pakistan began shelling Indian posts.

"We retaliated with heavy machine gun fire and mortar shelling," Lal said.

"We could see dozens of Pakistani bunkers go up in flames as there were several direct hits on them."

Ten soldiers were killed in the retaliatory action, he said.

It was not immediately known if there had been any Indian casualties.

The firing came as India army chief General S. Padmanabhan warned there was "scope for a limited conventional war" between India and Pakistan.

"When two countries mobilize their forces and place them on the border, it is not normal. The situation can comfortably be described as serious," he told a press conference in New Delhi.

"To say that there is scope for a limited conventional war is a truism. Yes it is there, but it all depends on the circumstances," he said.

Padmanabhan also said that if Islamabad dared to unleash nuclear arms, India was prepared to hit back with its own arsenal.

India and Pakistan have massed thousands of troops along their border in Kashmir and elsewhere in a tense military stand off which was triggered by an attack on the Indian parliament on December 13.

Meanwhile, five gunmen who carried out an attack on India's parliament were buried Friday after a deadline set by India for Pakistan to claim their bodies expired.

India had given Pakistan until Thursday to collect the bodies of the gunmen whom it claims are Pakistani nationals and belong to Pakistan-based militant groups Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lasher-e-Taiba.

Delhi police handed over the bodies to the Waqf Board, a body which performs the last rites for unclaimed Muslim bodies.

Pakistan has denied that the attackers were Pakistani nationals.

The attack has triggered huge tensions between the two countries, with New Delhi demanding that Islamabad crack down on militant groups which it says carry out "terrorist" acts in India.

Both sides have massed troops along their shared border causing a tense military stand-off.

In Riyadh, an envoy of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf arrived Friday for talks with Saudi leaders on tensions with neighboring India, an embassy spokesman said.

Minister of Communications and Railways Javaid Ashraf will hand messages from Musharraf to King Fahd and Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz explaining Islamabad's position on the crisis with India, the spokesman told AFP.

During his three-day visit, Ashraf will also meet other senior Saudi officials to discuss other topics, including Pakistan's recent announcement that it had arrested 240 Saudis who crossed from Afghanistan following the defeat of the Taliban.

Copyright © 2001 AFP. All rights reserved.

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