India confirms two killed after chopper crashes in Himalayas

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Updated: Indian military on Sunday made a rare confirmation of fatalities in a helicopter crash in the Himalayas that has strained ties with neighbouring Pakistan, but did not say whether any soldiers died or whether anyone else was on board.

Both countries have deployed troops along their contested frontier in Kashmir, where they have gone to war three times since independence from Britain in 1947. Pakistan claims most of the region.

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Indian air force and army sources had earlier confirmed that at least two people were killed when a helicopter crashed near the Siachen glacier and was caught in flames in the new year of its mountain homeland.

But there was no explanation about the injuries of those onboard.

India did not say whether anyone else on board survived and Pakistan only provided a base number for those on board.

“The bodies of two army personnel have been recovered. Search continues,” the Indian defence ministry said in a brief statement.

India and Pakistan have been clashing at the tiny de facto border in Kashmir since an attack on an Indian army base on 8 January that New Delhi has blamed on the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM).

Pakistan has denied involvement and accused India of exaggerating the casualties in the base battle to derail peace talks.

In the latest episode, Indian troops have used loudspeakers to summon civilian villagers and urge them to flee the area so that they can be picked up in case of any further escalation, officials said.

The aircraft caught fire after crash-landing between Siachen glacier and an army post in the divided Kashmir, army sources told Reuters.

Indian sources said the helicopter was carrying commandos for an operation against insurgent camps on the front line and was flying over the glacier at the time. The terrain in the region is of no use to airliners.

Traditionally, one type of helicopter flies through the icy skies to attack rebels, but more recent campaigns have been limited to short sorties to extract soldiers in steep and inhospitable terrain.

Military helicopters have an extensive history in the region that has cost lives, including when they got entangled in barbed wire in January 2014, leaving four soldiers and six militants dead.

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