A Pakistani farmer waited until darkness provided some cover from Indian gunners across the border, then picked his way along the narrow mountain paths to safety.
Syed Mushtaq Hussain's mother and cousin, hit by shell fragments Saturday, were waiting for him in his village on the Kashmiri front line."We cannot bring them here because there is no transport," Hussain said Sunday in Chinari, his words rushed with fear. "I've just come to get medicine and bandages."
Villagers on both sides of Kashmir have borne the brunt of days of fighting that India and Pakistan accuse each other of starting and Pakistan claims was aimed at undermining last week's peace talks.
Pakistani military sources, speaking on customary condition of anonymity, said 48 villagers have been killed since Wednesday by Indian shells or bullets. Indian army officials counter that 34 Indians, most of them civilians, have been killed by Pakistani forces.
Military officials said firing subsided after a two-hour bombardment early Sunday morning of Chokoti, a village of mud-and-brick houses scattered through a valley at the border about five miles from Chinari. No one was hurt because most of the 20,000 farmers and herders had fled, leaving behind crumbled homes and businesses and blackened corn fields.
India and Pakistan have fought two wars over Kashmir, the divided Himalayan territory claimed by both, since each gained independence from Britain in 1947. Spurts of artillery and mortar fire across Kashmir are common, though the exchanges that began last week were unusually heavy.
"The Indians are bombing the civilians, they're not targeting the army positions," Hussain, the farmer, said.
Many villages lie in a no-man's land between Indian and Pakistani artillery. Pakistani officials say India is trying to terrorize villagers so they won't shelter and feed Muslim militants who sneak across the border to join a separatist uprising in Indian-held Kashmir, the only Muslim-majority province in predominately Hindu India.
India accuses Pakistan, primarily an Islamic nation, of arming and training the militants, but Pakistani officials say they provide only moral support. Last week, Muslim militants were accused of killing 20 Hindu villagers in three attacks.
The attacks may have prompted the days of firing. Pakistani officials claim, however, that India was trying to undermine peace talks their prime minister held with his Indian counterpart last week. The talks, seen as particularly urgent because both nations tested nuclear weapons in May, were declared a failure on Friday.