Thu, Feb 28, 2019 - Page 1 News List

Pakistan, India say they downed each other’s jets

AFP, ISLAMABAD

Stranded passengers sit with their belongings outside the Jammu Airport in Kashmir, India, yesterday after airports in the region were closed to civilian aircraft.

Photo: EPA-EFE

Pakistan and India yesterday said that they had shot down each other’s warplanes in an escalating confrontation that has fueled concerns of a catastrophic conflict between the nuclear-armed rivals.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan called for talks between the neighbors, saying that “better sense should prevail.”

While both sides have sought to play down the threat of war, the rare air force engagement over the divided and disputed territory of Kashmir significantly raises the stakes in a standoff sparked by a suicide attack in the side controlled by India earlier this month.

Pakistan said it downed two Indian jets in its airspace and captured two pilots, while India confirmed the loss of one of its planes and said it had shot down a Pakistani fighter.

In a sign of the deepening crisis, Pakistan closed its airspace “until further notice.”

At least six airports were closed in India, and a vast area north of New Delhi was closed to civilian flights.

Pakistani military spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor told a news conference that one of the downed Indian planes had fallen in Pakistani-held Kashmir, while the other came down on the Indian side of the heavily militarized Line of Control, the de facto border dividing the Himalayan territory.

“We do not want escalation, we do not want to go toward war,” Ghafoor said, adding that one of the captured pilots was in custody and the other was in the hospital.

The jets had been shot down after Pakistani warplanes earlier flew across the Line of Control to the Indian side in a show of strength, hitting non-military targets, including supply depots, he said.

Afterward, the two Indian warplanes crossed the Line of Control into Pakistani airspace, he added.

He denied initial reports that a Pakistani warplane had been shot down, calling accounts an F-16 had been lost incorrect, as none were used in the action.

Indian Ministry of External Affairs spokesman Rajeesh Kumar later announced that a Pakistani jet was hit as it took part in an operation “to target military installations on the Indian side.”

“In this engagement, we have unfortunately lost one MiG-21. The pilot is missing in action. Pakistan has claimed that he is in their custody,” he added.

The US and other members of the international community have acted to defuse tensions between the two previously.

“If I were Washington, I’d be in overdrive making telephone calls and signaling that it wants tensions to be de-escalated now,” said Moeed Yusuf, an expert at the US Institute of Peace in Washington. “The risks of letting this play out are too great.”

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