JAMMU, Feb 27: Pakistan army this morning resorted to heavy mortar shelling and firing in Manjakote and Balakote sectors in Rajouri and Poonch districts, leading to injuries to two Border Security Force (BSF) personnel, closure of educational institutions and shifting of examination centres. A number of houses and other structures were damaged in the shelling.
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In the evening, Pakistani troops also fired mortar shells at Chakla and Baldoo areas of Khour sector.
At about 8 am when the people had started taking to fields while students were headed for schools, Pakistan army started heavy mortar shelling and firing with automatic and semi-automatic weapons in Manjakote sector of Rajouri and Balakote sector of Poonch simultaneously, targeting forward posts of Army and BSF and civilian areas, official sources said.
Two BSF jawans were injured when mortar shells exploded close to their posts in Balakote sector, near Bhimber Gali (BG). They were immediately evacuated from the site of shelling and shifted to hospital, where they were responding to the treatment.
Injured BSF jawans have been identified as Balwinder Singh, 23 and Dhana Shekhar, 37.
Several mortar shells fell in civilian areas of Balakote but the location population had narrow escape as they had rushed back to their houses and bunkers.
Deputy Commissioner, Rajouri, Dr Shahid Iqbal Choudhary told the Excelsior that in Manjakote, heavy mortar shelling was reported from Tarkundi Gali, Lambi Bari, Khori Nar, Dhar and Panjgrain village. House of one Mohammad Faiz son of Farman Ali R/o Naika Panjgrain was extensively damaged. Two cattle seriously injured inside the house.
Choudhary said 18 schools in Manjakote sector were immediately closed after reports of heavy shelling came. Two examination centres were shifted, he added.
The DC Rajouri said a total of 72 schools in three zones of Rajouri, which fall within shelling and firing range of Pakistan, will remain closed tomorrow as well.
Sources said some houses were damaged in Manjakote and Balakote when mortar shells exploded close to them. The civilians had miraculous escape in the houses, they added.
The Indian side retaliated Pakistan army’s shelling and firing effectively. Exchanges continued for over two hours.
The panic-stricken people didn’t move out of their houses throughout the day even though shelling and firing stopped in the afternoon.
Sources said Pakistan side was reported to have suffered heavy damages in retaliatory firing by the Indian troops all along the LoC in Rajouri and Poonch districts, where shelling and firing from across has become a routine affair.
Ceasefire violations along the LoC and International Border in Jammu and Kashmir have left 21 persons including 12 security personnel dead and over 80 others, mostly civilians, injured this year.
While there were no ceasefire violations by Pakistan reported along the IB since January 22, intermittent shelling has become a routine affair along the LoC in Rajouri and Poonch districts. Shelling had recently also spread to Uri sector of Kashmir.
Sources said since Pakistan side has suffered heavy casualties, both fatal and non-fatal of their troops and infrastructural damages at the hands of Indian Army, they were now targeting civilian population of Poonch and Rajouri to cause casualties.
Yesterday, the Border Security Force (BSF) had foiled an infiltration attempt by the militants along International Border (IB) in Ramgarh sector of Poonch district, forcing a group of four militants to retreat to Pakistan.
A day before, Pakistan had violated ceasefire in Nowshera sector of Rajouri district.