Frustrated by air raids, Pak targets civilians; uses Howitzer artillery fires

An injured civilian being evacuated from the firing site in Mendhar sector on Thursday. -Excelsior/Rahi Kapoor
An injured civilian being evacuated from the firing site in Mendhar sector on Thursday. -Excelsior/Rahi Kapoor

Girl killed, jawan on leave among 2 injured
Comdr visits forward areas on LoC
Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, Feb 28: After suffering heavy losses in air strikes by India, Pakistan army today activated almost all major sectors on the Line of Control (LoC) in twin border districts of Poonch and Rajouri pounding forward posts of the troops and civilian areas with long range mortars, 105 mm Howitzer guns and heavy fire arms, killing a girl and injuring two others including an Army soldier, who had come to his house on leave.
It was virtually a war-like situation in most parts of the LoC especially Mendhar, Mankote, Balakote, Khari Karmara and Degwar sectors of Poonch district and Nowshera and Sunderbani sectors in Rajouri district, where mortar shells fired by Pakistan troops landed deep inside the civilian areas, spreading panic and fear among the people, who confined themselves to houses or bunkers.
Click here to watch video
This was for the first time that Pakistan army used artillery fire with Howitzer 105 mm guns to target civilian areas in the past many years. The Howitzer guns were used in Nowshera sector of Rajouri district and its shells fell in Kalal area of Nowshera sector but fortunately missed the intended targets and there were no losses.
According to sources, more than 70 villages and forward posts were targeted in Pakistan army’s shelling and firing in the two districts. Pounding of the civilian areas by the Pakistan army continued throughout the day and in some areas, it was going on till late tonight.
The Indian side retaliated Pakistan shelling and firing very effectively at all the places. Northern Command chief Lt Gen Ranbir Singh also visited some of the forward areas on the LoC in Rajouri district and reviewed operational preparedness of the troops to meet with any eventuality from the Pakistan side.
Such was intensity of Pakistan’s shelling that number of mortar shells landed close to Mendhar town, triggering panic. Entire Mendhar bazaar was closed immediately after the shells started falling close to the town. Government officers were also closed.
Educational institutions up to 10+2 level had already been closed within five kilometer radius of the International Border (IB) and LoC in five districts including Jammu, Samba, Kathua, Poonch and Rajouri.
Official sources pointed out that Pakistan army was frustrated after Indian air raids deep inside Pakistan at Balakote in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in which over 350 militants were killed followed by shooting down of F-16 fighter jet in Nowshera sector of Rajouri districts yesterday by the Indian Air Force MiG-21 Bison.
“Unable to match strength of the IAF, Pakistan army was targeting innocent civilians living close to the LoC by firing mortars,” sources said.
A civilian was killed and two others were injured in Pakistan shelling during the day in Mendhar.
The dead civilian has been identified as Amina Akhter, 27, daughter of Mohammad Sadaq, a resident of Chajla, Mendhar while the injured included Lance Naik Zakir Hussain son of Abdul Hameed R/o Balnoi, an Army jawan posted in Kupwara, who had come to his house on leave and Naseem Akhter wife of Mohammad Younis R/o Mankote.
Army, police and civilians evacuated the injured to District Hospital, Rajouri, from where they were further referred to the Government Medical College, Jammu in critical condition.
There were reports that number of houses and cattle shed were damaged in Pakistan shelling. Some cattle might have perished but exact number couldn’t be ascertained immediately in view of continued shelling.
In Nowshera sector of Rajouri district, forward villages including Baba Khori, Kalsian and Kalal were badly affected by Pakistan shelling. Three houses of Balbir Kumar, Chaman Lal and Surjeet Kumar were hit by mortar shells and damaged but the civilians had narrow escape, sources said.
They added that besides giving very strong and effective reply to Pakistani troops for shelling and firing, Indian Army was also keeping strict vigil on the LoC to guard against any infiltration attempt by the militants under the cover of ceasefire violations by Pakistan.
Meanwhile, amid high tensions along the LoC, Northern Army Commander Lt Gen Ranbir Singh visited forward posts in Rajouri Sector to review the operational preparedness and the prevailing security situation.
Accompanied by White Knight Corps Commander, Lt Gen Paramjit Singh, the Commander’s visit came as Pakistan fired mortar shells on the LoC.
During the visit, Lt Gen Singh was briefed by the Commanders on ground about the operational situation, prevailing security scenario and preparedness of the army formations.
He was also briefed on the actions taken to meet the challenges of increased ceasefire violations through superior and aggressive domination of LoC being exercised by the troops and defensive measures put in place to thwart the nefarious designs of the adversary.
Lt Gen Singh interacted with the soldiers and complimented them for their unwavering dedication to duty, selfless devotion and high standard of professionalism.
He was appreciative of the measures and Standard Operating Procedures instituted by the units and formations in their area of responsibility to minimize the casualties due to ceasefire violations and infiltration bids.
The need to be prepared for effectively meeting current emerging security challenge was also reinforced by the Commander.
The year 2018 had witnessed the highest number of ceasefire violations — 2,936 — by Pakistani troops in the last 15 years along the Indo-Pak border.