ISLAMABAD (AP) — 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.
Police said they were still going through the wreckage and did not immediately identify the victims. Local residents earlier said they saw three bodies at the site.
Eyewitnesses said soldiers fired warning shots in air to keep residents away from the crash site.
As the tensions and confrontation escalated between India and Pakistan, authorities asked workers to paint rooftops of hospitals and clinics in red and white with medical emblem of cross in Srinagar city.
Earlier Wednesday, India said one of its air force Mig-21 fighter aircraft had been “lost” in an engagement with intruding Pakistani aircraft in the Indian portion of Kashmir and that its pilot was missing.
Pakistan said it shot down two Indian planes and captured two pilots.
India’s External Affairs Ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said that one Pakistan air force aircraft also was shot down and India’s ground forces saw it falling from the sky on the Pakistan side on Wednesday.
Kumar’s statement came hours after Pakistan claimed that its air force shot down two Indian warplanes after they crossed the boundary between the two nuclear-armed rivals in the disputed territory of Kashmir and captured two Indian pilots, one of whom was injured.
Kumar said India was still “ascertaining” whether its pilot was in Pakistan’s custody.
China meanwhile renewed calls for Pakistan and India to take steps to avoid a further deterioration of ties after the latest flare-up over Kashmir.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters at a daily briefing on Wednesday that “both Pakistan and India are important countries in the subcontinent of South Asia.”
He said China hopes “they will keep in mind the regional peace and stability, exercise restraint, take effective measures to strengthen dialogue, and maintain two sides’ fundamental interests and the regional peace and stability.”
Lu also said: “We hope they will avoid deterioration of the situation.”
China is longstanding close ally and arms supplier to Pakistan, but has also sought better ties with its southern neighbor and Asian rival India.
Also Wednesday, India’s former ambassador to the United States said that a new red line with Pakistan has been drawn.
Retired diplomat Lalit Mansingh said that India’s policy of strategic restraint “is no longer.”
Mansingh said a new doctrine was established by India’s pre-dawn airstrikes on Tuesday in Pakistani territory that Indian officials said targeted terrorist infrastructure.
The strikes were the deepest inside Pakistani territory since the neighboring countries last went to war over Kashmir in 1971.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said afterward that the attacks paid homage to “India’s brave hearts” — an apparent reference to 40 Indian soldiers killed in a Feb. 14 suicide bombing in India-controlled Kashmir.
Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority shut its airspace to all commercial flights on Wednesday, without indicating when flights might resume.
Tens of thousands of Indian and Pakistani soldiers are posted along the Kashmir boundary. Pakistani police said mortar shells fired by Indian troops in the Himalayan region of Kashmir struck homes, killing six civilians and wounding several others.
Local police official Mohammad Altaf said six people, including children, were killed Wednesday in Kotli village in Pakistan’s part of Kashmir, which is split between Pakistan and India and claimed by both in its entirety.
Pakistani and Indian troops deployed in Kashmir often trade fire.