Pakistan says 2 Indian warplanes downed, 2 pilots captured

By ROSHAN MUGHAL and AIJAZ HUSSAIN, MUZAFARABAD, Pakistan, Feb 27 (AP) — Pakistan shot down two Indian warplanes Wednesday in the disputed region of Kashmir and captured their pilots, its military said, raising tensions between the nuclear-armed rivals to a level unseen in 20 years.

India acknowledged one of its air force planes was “lost” in skirmishes with Pakistan and its pilot was “missing in action” in a chaotic day that also saw mortar shells fired by Indian troops from across the frontier dividing the two sectors of Kashmir kill six civilians and wound others.

Kashmiri villagers gather near the wreckage of an Indian aircraft after it crashed in Budgam area, outskirts of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Wednesday, Feb.27, 2019. (AP Photo/Mukhtar Khan)

Pakistan responded by shutting down its civilian airspace as Prime Minister Imran Khan called for negotiations with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi to ensure “better sense can prevail.”

“Let’s sit together to talk to find a solution,” Khan said. There was no immediate reaction from Modi.

The planes went down Wednesday morning in Kashmir, a mountainous region claimed by both India and Pakistan since almost immediately after their creation in 1947. One of the downed planes crashed in Pakistan’s part of Kashmir while the other went down in Indian-controlled section of the Himalayan region, Pakistan’s army spokesman Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor said.

Pakistani troops on the ground captured the pilots, he said.

The injured pilot was being treated at a military hospital, Ghafoor told a news conference in the garrison town of Rawalpindi. He did not elaborate beyond saying the pilots were being “treated well” and made no mention of them being returned to India.

Ghafoor struck a conciliatory tone.

“We have no intention of escalation, but are fully prepared to do so if forced into that paradigm,” he added.

India’s External Affairs Ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said one of its Mig-21 fighter aircraft was missing. He said India was still “ascertaining” whether its pilot was in Pakistan’s custody. He said one Pakistani aircraft was shot down, something Pakistan denied.

Meanwhile, Indian police say officials have recovered four bodies from the wreckage of an Indian Air Force chopper that crashed in Indian-controlled sector of Kashmir.

Senior police officer Munir Ahmed Khan said the chopper crashed close to an airport on Wednesday in Budgam area, in the outskirts of the region’s main city of Srinagar. The Srinagar airport, which has been shut along with two other airports for civilian flights in the region, is also an air force station.

Eyewitnesses said soldiers fired in air to keep residents away from the crash site. It wasn’t immediately clear if that crash was related to Pakistan’s claim of shooting down a second Indian aircraft.

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