Avalanche traps over 100 Pakistani soldiers-army

ISLAMABAD,  (Reuters) – An avalanche slammed into a Pakistani military camp near the mountainous border with rival India early today, burying more than 100 soldiers, the army said, adding that casualties were expected.

Several Pakistani television channels said about 150 soldiers were trapped by the avalanche near the Siachen Glacier in the Karakoram mountain range in Kashmir.

“At six o’clock this morning this avalanche hit a (military) headquarters. Over 100 soldiers and personnel are trapped,” army spokesman Major-General Athar Abbas told Reuters.

A helicopter rescue team was searching for the soliders with sniffer dogs, he added. The fate of those buried was unclear hours after the avalanche hit.

The Siachen glacier is in the north of Kashmir. Muslim-majority Kashmir is at the heart of hostilities between India and Pakistan and was the cause of two of their three wars since independence from Britain in 1947.

Indian and Pakistani forces, estimated to number between 10,000 and 20,000 troops combined, have faced off against each other in mountains above the glacier, described as the world’s highest battlefield, since 1984.

The two nations have a tentative peace process under way with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari scheduled to meet Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday, the first visit to India by a Pakistani head of state since 2005.

The no-man’s-land of Siachen is 20,000 feet (6,000 metres) above sea level. Military experts say the inhospitable climate and avalanche-prone terrain have claimed more lives than gunfire.

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