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Abhinandan: Crowds gather for Indian pilot’s release

Crowds of Indians are gathering near a border crossing with Pakistan ahead of the release of an Indian fighter pilot captured by Pakistan.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan said the pilot would be released as a “peace gesture” on Friday. India’s military welcomed the move.

Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman’s plane was shot down in the disputed region of Kashmir on Wednesday.

Both countries are under pressure to calm tensions.

On Friday Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the events of the past few days had “brought our nation closer”.

“The way the nation has supported our armed forces is extraordinary and I bow to every Indian for that,” he said.

What led to the pilot’s capture?

On Tuesday, India struck what it said was a militant camp in Pakistan in retaliation for a suicide bombing that killed at least 40 Indian troops in Kashmir on 14 February.

He also repeated his call for the de-escalation of the situation, saying that Pakistan and India “have to live in peace”.

On Wednesday he pushed for talks with Delhi to prevent the risk of a “miscalculation” between the nuclear-armed neighbours.

What happened to the pilot?

The Indian Air Force pilot, identified as Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, had been reported “missing in action” by Indian officials.

Images then circulated of his capture, which were both condemned for what appeared to be a physical attack at the hands of residents in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, and praised for the actions of the Pakistani soldiers who intervened to create a barrier.

Pakistan’s information ministry published – but subsequently deleted – a video showing the blindfolded pilot, who could be heard requesting water, just after he had been captured.

Villagers in Horran threw stones at the pilot, who fired several warning shots in response, eyewitnesses later told the BBC.

He is being hailed as a hero in India.

bbc

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