Trade point shelled in Poonch
Trade suspended, PoK trucks return
JAMMU, Mar 13: All Indian air defence and radar system was put on high alert after observing movement of two Pakistan Air Force (PAF) jets close to the Line of Control (LoC) in Poonch sector last night while Pakistan army resorted to heavy mortar shelling and firing at Chakan-Da-Bagh cross-LoC trade point in Poonch this morning causing heavy damages to the trade centre and leading to suspension of the trade.
Sixty-six trucks of India and Pakistan loaded with goods remained stranded in each other’s territory for six to seven hours during the day after which 31 Pakistani trucks returned to Rawlakote in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) along with the goods while 35 Indian trucks returned safely after unloading on other side of the LoC, official sources told the Excelsior.
“Indian air defence radars detected two Pakistani Air Force (PAF) jets go supersonic, about 10 kilometers from the LoC within their territory in Poonch sector. Loud bangs were heard in Poonch sector in the area due to sonic booms of the jets,” sources said, adding that All Indian air defences and radar system were put on high alert immediately after movement of Pakistani fighter jets was detected.
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However, within minutes, the Pakistani jets flew back to their bases.
This was for the first time after February 27 dogfight in Nowshera sector of Rajouri district in which IAF had shot down Pakistan’s F-16 but lost its one MiG-21 Bison. The dogfight was the outcome of Indian Air Force strike at Jaish-e-Mohammed’s terror camp in Balakote at Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in which large number of Jaish militants were killed.
Meanwhile, at about 10 am, Pakistan army started heavy mortar shelling and firing on the LoC in Khari Karamara area of Poonch sector and extended it to Chakan-Da-Bagh cross-LoC trade centre.
Several mortar shells landed inside the Trade Facilitation Centre (TFC) in Poonch, causing extensive damage to the building. Panic gripped the areas around TFC and staff and local people fled to safety. Thirty-one trucks from PoK, which had cross the LoC and reached Immigration Centre in Poonch district, were halted there to avert casualties and damage to them.
Indian Army retaliated shelling and firing very strongly and effectively. There were reports that at least three Pakistan army posts were destroyed in the Indian shelling after which Pakistan stopped shelling and firing around 1.30 pm. However, there was no casualty on the Indian side.
SSP Poonch Romesh Angral told the Excelsior after visiting the Trade Facilitation Centre that the building suffered extensive damage as some mortar shells fell inside and exploded.
Angral said 35 trucks from Poonch, which had left for Rawlakote were unloaded there and returned to Poonch late this evening after shelling and firing from Pakistan side had stopped. However, 31 trucks, which had come from PoK were stopped at Immigration Centre and returned from there to Rawlakote unloaded to avert any casualties or damage in view of Pakistan shelling.
Immediately after the shelling, authorities in Poonch announced suspension of cross-LoC trade on Poonch-Rawlakote route between two parts of the divided State i.e. J&K and PoK till further orders. The cross-LoC trade takes place four days a week from Tuesday to Friday while cross-LoC bus moves every Monday.
“A decision on resumption of trade and movement of bus next week will be taken depending on the situation prevailing then,” sources said.
In 2017 also, cross-LoC bus and trade had remained suspended for about six months on Poonch-Rawlakote route in view of heavy shelling and firing on the LoC in Poonch sector especially in the areas falling close to Chakan-Da-Bagh.
Following Indian air strikes at Balakote on February 26, there has been spurt in ceasefire violations by Pakistan army on the LoC in twin border districts of Poonch and Rajouri. Four civilians have been killed in Pakistan shelling in Poonch district while over a dozen others were injured. Pakistan army has suffered heavy losses in retaliatory shelling by the Indian troops.