Islamabad says illegal cluster bombs, that emit deadly exploding shrapnel and are prohibited under the Geneva Convention, killed two civilians and wounded 11 others in its portion of disputed Kashmir, a claim India denies.

A man shows a wall of a house that was damaged by a cross border shelling, in Salkhala village, near Line of Control, in Neelum Valley, Pakistan-administered Kashmir, August 1, 2019.
A man shows a wall of a house that was damaged by a cross border shelling, in Salkhala village, near Line of Control, in Neelum Valley, Pakistan-administered Kashmir, August 1, 2019. (Reuters)

Pakistan accused India on Saturday of using illegal cluster bombs, killing two civilians and wounding 11, in the disputed Kashmir region that both countries claim.

Pakistan's military released images of what it said were bombs used by India during shelling along the de facto border in Kashmir on July 30 and 31, and photos of civilians, including a 4-year-old boy, who it said were killed and wounded by the weapons.

"Use of cluster bombs by Indian Army violating international conventions is condemnable," Major General Asif Ghafoor, chief spokesman for Pakistan's armed forces, said in a tweet.

In the latest flare-up of tensions between the two countries, India denied it had used such weapons.

Cluster bombs emit deadly exploding shrapnel and are prohibited under the Geneva Convention governing international warfare.

False flag?

Pakistan's accusations come a day after India alleged Pakistan-backed rebels had planned attacks on Hindu pilgrims in Kashmir, leading to an evacuation of thousands of tourists from the region on Saturday.

Thousands of military reinforcements were arriving in the Himalayan territory, where a three-decade-old armed rebellion and brutal Indian crackdown has left tens of thousands dead.

India said on late Friday that holiday-makers and religious tourists should leave "immediately" because of new intelligence about "terror threats" to a major Hindu pilgrimage in the region.

A separate government notice also advised hundreds of students from other Indian states to leave the Himalayan Valley.

Britain and Germany have issued warnings against travel to the region.

Residents say they were not happy about the deployment of additional troops and questioned the Indian government's intentions.

Indian soldiers are ubiquitous in Kashmir and residents make little secret of their fury at their presence in the region.

On Saturday, Pakistan rejected India's claims of arms recovery and possible attacks on Hindu pilgrims.

"This is a familiar Indian ploy to externalise blame, use baseless allegations as a smokescreen, and persist with its state-sponsored repression against the Kashmiri people. We again caution the international community against any false flag operations," a Pakistan foreign ministry statement said. 

Meanwhile, anxious visitors, including some foreigners, flooded the airport at the main city Srinagar on Saturday, many without tickets for flights that day.

Visitor numbers have been boosted by the Amarnath Yatra pilgrimage in recent years, with more than 300,000 Hindus devotees visiting the ice stalagmite cave shrine in the Himalayas.

The pilgrimage has been cancelled because of the scare.

A huge security force had been guarding the route even before the alert, and a second smaller pilgrimage, the Machail Mata Yatra, in Jammu region was also cancelled Saturday.

Airport chaos

"Passengers who were scheduled to return in coming days have turned up in panic at the airport today," said the manager of one airline operating the Delhi-Srinagar route.

"It's chaotic and not many will manage seats unless there are additional flights."

Hundreds of Indian students from outside Kashmir were evacuated in buses.

"All the non-local students have left the campus for their respective states," an administrative official at the National Institute of Technology in Srinagar told AFP news agency.

Kashmiri residents formed long lines outside petrol stations, food stores and bank cash machines on Friday night after the alert was announced. But the queues eased Saturday.

India and Pakistan divided Kashmir when they became independent in 1947 but both claim it in full and have fought two of three wars since over the territory.

Most Kashmiris support the rebels' demand that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country, while also participating in civilian street protests against Indian control.

The Indian government has admitted that 10,000 extra troops were sent to Kashmir a week ago. Media reports Friday said a further 25,000 had been ordered there. 

The Quint, however, reported the build-up of nearly 1,80,000 troops, in addition to some 500,000 Indian soldiers already deployed in the region.

The government has declined to say how many are in the new reinforcements.

Modi's 'misadventure'

While military authorities and the regional authorities highlighted the security risk, Kashmir politicians have raised fears that the extra Indian troops are a sign that the Hindu nationalist government could carry out a threat to scrap Kashmir's special status under the constitution.

Political leaders in the territory have warned that cancelling constitutionally guaranteed rights, which mean only state domiciles can buy land in the region, could spark unrest in the disputed Muslim majority state.

The main opposition Congress party accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government of preparing for a "misadventure" which leader P Chidambaram said would be "fraught with very serious legal and political consequences".

Modi's government has refused to say whether it is about to scrap the constitutional article, though he has often spoken against it.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies