Civilian areas directly hit; schools closed
*Ready to face any kind of situation: GOC
JAMMU, Sept 21: As United Nations General Assembly Session approaches; Pakistan army has stepped-up heavy shelling and firing on the Line of Control (LoC) in Rajouri and Poonch districts targeting civilian locations with a view to internationalize the Kashmir issue even as an Army Commander said the troops were ready to face any kind of situation on the LoC.
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Pakistan army since last night resorted to heavy shelling and firing in Balakote, Mendhar, Shahpur and Kerni sectors in Poonch and Nowshera sector in Rajouri district prompting authorities to close down schools in Balakote and Mendhar and some other areas as the mortar shells were directly falling in civilian locations.
While there were no civilian casualties, number of houses were damaged along the LoC and 16 cattle perished.
“The intense firing and shelling from across the border prompted authorities to suspend classes in nearly half a dozen Government-run schools falling within the Pakistan firing range in Poonch district today,” officials told the Excelsior.
They said the educational institutions within the firing range were closed as Pakistan army was raining mortars and bullets using heavy fire arms in the civilian areas of Mendhar, Balakote, Shahpur, Kerni, Nowshera and surroundings.
Indian Army retaliated Pakistan shelling and firing at all the places, leading to heavy exchanges. Shelling from Pakistan side stopped only after Indian retaliation as there were reports that Pakistani posts, which were firing mortars, were hit and damaged.
Pakistan first violated the ceasefire in Nowshera sector from 8 pm to 10 pm on Friday, followed by small arms firing and mortar shelling in Balakote area of Mendhar sector in Poonch district from 11.45 pm to 2 am, sources said.
At about 9.45 am today, Pakistan again violated the ceasefire and targeted Shahpur and Kerni sectors in Poonch district, while the cross-border firing also resumed in Balakote sector at 4.15 pm.
Sources said 16 domestic animals were killed in the overnight Pakistani shelling in Balakote area.
“The class work in four schools was suspended today (Saturday) as a precautionary measure as there was apprehension of unexploded mortar shells lying in the vicinity,” the officials said, adding that a few more schools were closed in Shahpur sector in view of the ongoing shelling for the safety of students.
Several residential houses suffered minor damages due to Pakistani shelling, they said, adding there was no report of any civilian casualty.
Panic gripped the border villagers as the shelling on civilian areas was intense, the officials said, adding the people have been advised to take necessary precautionary steps for their safety.
A local resident of Balakote said over 100 shells landed in his village in a few hours shortly after midnight, causing fear among the border residents especially the children and the women.
He praised Army for reaching out to them in the dead of the night after the firing stopped for a while to ascertain their welfare.
This year, according to officials, Pakistan violated the ceasefire over 2,050 times along the LoC, leaving 21 Indians dead and scores of others injured.
India has repeatedly called upon Pakistan to ask its forces to adhere to the 2003 ceasefire understanding and maintain peace and tranquility along the LoC and the International Border.
Meanwhile, General Officer Commanding (GOC) Romeo Force Major General PS Bajwa told reporters in Rajouri on the sidelines of a function that enemy’s bid to disturb peace and tranquility will fail.
“I won’t comment on what happens on other side of the LoC (Pakistan) but our Army is always fully prepared,” he said.
Maj Gen Bajwa said whether their activity (a reference towards Pakistani troops) is less or more, “our Army is always ready to face any kind of situation created by the enemy”.