A flare up between arch-foes India and Pakistan appeared to be easing yesterday after Islamabad handed back a captured Indian pilot, but tensions continued to simmer amid efforts by global powers to prevent a war between the nuclear-armed neighbours.
Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who became the face and symbol of the biggest clash between India and Pakistan in many years, walked across the border just before 9:00 pm (1600 GMT) on Friday in a high-profile handover shown on live television.
However, Indian and Pakistani soldiers again targeted each other's posts and villages along their volatile frontier in the disputed region of Kashmir, killing at least five civilians and two soldiers, and wounding several others, officials on both sides said yesterday.
Fighting resumed overnight into dawn of yesterday, leaving two siblings and their mother dead in Indian-administered Kashmir.
The three died after a shell fired by Pakistani soldiers hit their home in Poonch region near the Line of Control (LoC) that divides the Himalayan territory of Kashmir between the two nuclear-armed rivals, police said.
The children's father was critically wounded and has been admitted to hospital.
In Pakistan-administered Kashmir, a man and a boy were killed by Indian shelling in Nakiyal, said Nasrullah Khan, a hospital official. Khan said a man was also wounded in the Tatta Pani area.
The Pakistani army said in a statement that two of its soldiers were killed in Nakiyal in an "exchange of fire while targeting Indian posts undertaking firing on civilian population".
Separately, a police official in Rawalakot, speaking to Al Jazeera on condition of anonymity, said that a man had been wounded and three homes destroyed in the Indian shelling overnight.
On Friday, four Indian troops and one civilian were killed in a clash with militants in the Indian-administered Kashmir.
Both the militaries said they remained on high alert.
Pakistan touted Abhinandan's return as "as a goodwill gesture aimed at de-escalating rising tensions with India" after weeks of unease that threatened to spiral into war after both countries used jets for bombing missions this week.
Global powers, including China and the United States, have urged restraint to prevent another conflict between the neighbours who have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947.
Tensions escalated rapidly following a suicide car bombing on Feb. 14 that killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary police in Indian-controlled Kashmir.
India accused Pakistan of harbouring the Jaish-e Mohammad group behind the attack, which Islamabad denied, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised a strong response.
Indian warplanes carried out air strikes on Tuesday inside Pakistan on what New Delhi called militant camps. Islamabad denied any such camps existed, as did local villagers in the area, but Pakistan retaliated on Wednesday with its own aerial mission, that led to both sides claiming to have shot down jets.
The stand-off came at a critical time for Modi, who faces a general election that must be held by May and who had been expected to benefit from nationalist pride unleashed by the standoff.
Pakistani leaders say the ball is now in India's court to de-escalate the tensions, though the Pakistani army chief told top military leaders of the United States, Britain and Australia on Friday that his country would "surely respond to any aggression in self-defence".
Meanwhile, a furious backlash erupted in India yesterday over a video of the Indian pilot praising his captors.
Media reports said Abhinandan's return to India had been held up because the pilot was forced to make the video before getting his freedom.
In the heavily edited video distributed by the Pakistani military just before his release, he praised the professionalism of the Pakistani army and criticised Indian media for creating war hysteria.
Omar Abdullah, a former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir state, said the video tainted Pakistan's gesture to return the pilot so quickly.
"Sadly the image you paint for us is marred terribly by the video he's forced to record just before you sent him back," Abdullah said on Twitter.
"That high moral ground you had bequeathed to yourselves slipped at the end."
Indian media slammed the video as "distasteful" and said it breached international norms for prisoners of war. India's feverish social media also slammed the video, which was tweeted by the Pakistan government but later taken off its official account.
Pakistan's foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the country had acted with prudence in releasing the pilot.
"There was no pressure on Pakistan to release him nor any compulsion," he told BBC Urdu.
Some social media users though criticised the military video, calling it "cheap" and "unnecessary".
"Not a good idea. This will backfire," said Gul Bukhari, a prominent critic of the government and the powerful military.