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Pakistan to release downed Indian pilot

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ISLAMABAD/NEW DELHI: The Indian pilot shot down and captured by Pakistani forces will be released today, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said, as efforts to cool a crisis between the two nuclear-armed neighbours continued.

"As a peace gesture, we will be releasing him tomorrow," Mr Khan told Parliament in Islamabad yesterday.

The downed Indian fighter pilot, who was attacked by a mob and paraded on video by Pakistan's army, has become a social media sensation and a hero in his homeland.

With Pakistani villagers and soldiers filming his capture and captivity on Wednesday, the pilot identified by Islamabad as Indian Wing Commander Abhinandan has emerged as the face of the flare-up.

India has not confirmed the pilot's identity, but Indian media have given his name as Abhinandan Varthaman.

The airman's treatment at the hands of Pakistani troops drew both condemnation and praise, while at his house in southern India, supporters gathered to record messages of solidarity.

In one video posted on social media, a Pakistani soldier ankle-deep in a stream of water in the Kashmir region can be seen shielding the pilot from angry villagers and shouting "enough" as they pummel his bloodied face and strike blows against his limp body.

In another video, posted on Twitter by Pakistan's Information Ministry, the pilot is blindfolded and can be heard saying: "I've got hurt and I would request some water."

He then reveals his name and rank before politely fending off questions from soldiers by saying: "I'm not supposed to tell you that."

Later, in a video released by Pakistan's military, the pilot looked relaxed as he sipped tea.

"The officers of the Pakistani Army have looked after me well, they are thorough gentlemen," he said. - REUTERS