Pakistan air force closes highway for ‘routine’ drill amid India tension

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Islamabad: Pakistan’s air force closed a major highway on Thursday to let it practice landing jets on the road, in what it said was routine training not related to heightened tension with India after a deadly attack in the disputed Kashmir region.

The attack in the frontier town of Uri – the latest in a decades-long dispute over Kashmir, claimed and held in part by both India and Pakistan – has raised new fears of military conflict between the nuclear-armed neighbours.

India has accused Pakistan of being behind Sunday’s attack on an army base that killed 18 soldiers in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir and said it had the right to respond.

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Pakistan has rejected the allegation and accused India of apportioning blame before the incident had been investigated properly.

On Thursday, traffic on Pakistan’s busy main highway between Islamabad, the capital, and the eastern city of Lahore was diverted to an older mountain road during the two-day air force exercise, dubbed High Mark.

‘They landed on the road in this, yes. That is something they have been doing for years,’ Pakistan Air Force spokesman Commodore Javed Mohammad Ali said. The drill was needed ‘in case your runways get damaged or they are not available for you,’ he added.

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