Two minors killed, BSF jawan among 13 injured in heavy Pak shelling

A mortar shell explodes in a forward area of LoC in Poonch sector on Monday. -Excelsior/Harbhajan
A mortar shell explodes in a forward area of LoC in Poonch sector on Monday. -Excelsior/Harbhajan

War like situation prevails in LoC villages

Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, Oct 2: A virtual war like situation prevailed in nearly half a dozen heavily populated villages, located close to Line of Control (LoC) in Poonch sector this morning as Pakistani troops rained heavy 82mm mortars and bullets directly targeting civilian areas, killing two children and injuring 12 others, apart from causing damage to several houses and other structures.
Pakistan claimed that one of its army jawans and two others were killed while three jawans were seriously injured at Neja Peer, falling opposite Digwar village of Poonch, in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) in retaliatory firing by the Indian troops.
In the evening, Pakistan army fired two sniper shots on a forward BSF post in Rajouri sector, which injured constable R Ramachari. However, his condition was stable. He sustained gunshot wounds on his right forearm. Sources said Pakistani troops targeted the BSF post with sniper shots around 6.15 pm. The injured jawan has been hospitalized.
Sources told the Excelsior that Pakistani troops started heavy shelling using 82mm mortars and firing with automatic and semi-automatic weapons targeting Shahpur, Kirni, Kasba, Digwar, Malti, Bigial Dara, Terwan and surrounding villages, located close to LoC in Poonch sector at 6.30 am when the people had just started moving out of their houses towards the fields and other places with the onset of Sun. Some of the people were sitting in open, unmindful of what was in store for them.
“The people were trapped in the fields and other places as Pakistani troops used heavy mortars and firing, directly aiming the civilian population living close to the LoC,” sources said, adding that two children-a boy and a girl-were killed as mortar shells exploded inside or close to their houses while a dozen other civilians were injured, four of them seriously.
The Indian Army retaliated shelling and firing very effectively to silence the Pakistani guns and save the civilian population from any further damage. Heavy exchange of shelling and firing between the two sides continued from 6.30 am to 11 am.
Sources said three Pakistanis were killed in retaliatory firing by the Indian troops including an army jawan while three jawans were seriously injured at Neja Peer sector, falling opposite Digwar village of Poonch, in PoK.
The fatal casualties on Indian side included Asrar Ahmad, 10, son of Mohammad Rashid R/o Mohalla Kasba and Yasmina Akhtar, 15, daughter of Mohammad Sadiq R/o Digwar. Both of them were sitting outside their houses after waking up when mortar shells exploded close to their houses and they were hit by splinters. While Asrar Ahmad died on spot, Yasmina succumbed to her injuries while being shifted to hospital.
Condition of four injured was stated to be serious and all of them were referred to Government Medical College, Jammu. They included Mohammad Rafiq, 25, son of Sukar Din R/o Mohalla Kasba, Zabia Kousar, 5, daughter of Mohammad Sadiq R/o Digwar Terwian, Mohammad Sadiq, 16, son of Nazar Hussain and Mohammad Sadiq, 54, son of Mohammad Hussain, both residents of Bigial Dara.
Mohammad Rafiq and Zabia Kousar were airlifted from Poonch to Jammu and admitted in the Government Medical College while two other seriously injured shelling victims were sent to the GMC Jammu by road.
Eight injured, who were undergoing treatment in the District Hospital, Poonch have been identified as Rashma Bi, 45, wife of Sukar Din R/o Mohalla Kasba, Yasir Hussain, 13, son of Fazal Din R/o Bigial Dara, Mohammad Sajad, 30, son of Barkat Hussain R/o Banpat, Sehima Bi, 22, wife of Mohammad Sadiq R/o Trewian, Tazam Akhter, 18, daughter of Mohammad Sadiq, Parveen Akhter, 14, daughter of Akhter Hussain, Naseem Akhter, 25, wife of Mohammad Kabir, all residents of Digwar and Arfan Shabir, 12, son of Mohammad Shabir R/o Bigial Dara.
A number of cattle were killed and injured in Pakistan shelling while several houses were damaged. However, according to sources, exact number of dead and injured cattle and damaged houses is being ascertained.
Panic gripped the people of border villages along LoC as many of them remained trapped in the fields and small structures due to uninterrupted shelling and firing from across the LoC for four and a half hours. The people returned to their houses as firing completely stopped at 11 am.
Sources pointed out that it was virtually a war like situation in more than a dozen forward villages in Poonch sector, where security forces and people were finding it difficult to evacuate the shelling and firing victims from their houses and fields. However, security forces and people risked their lives to shift the injured to hospitals.
Even as shelling stopped around 11 am, people remained confined to their houses throughout the day feeling scary to come out for the fear of resumption of shelling. According to sources, mortar shells were virtually raining in the villages. However, they said, shelling came down after Indian troops gave a very effective reply to Pakistani troops to silence their guns.
Senior officers of civil and police administration visited the shelling hit villages in the afternoon and assured all help to the people.
Sources said Digwar was the worst-hit in the shelling which sparked panic among the people.
However, they said, the residents are reluctant to migrate from the affected villages and have moved to safer places within their villages.
The district administration has rushed ambulances to the affected villages to evacuate the injured, who were also provided immediate relief of Rs 5000 from the Red Cross fund.
Sources said the Government has started construction of 40 community bunkers along the LoC for the safety of civilians.
“Work on construction of 40 underground community bunkers has started all along the LoC including areas which were hit by Pakistan this morning,” they said adding the project is expected to be completed in the shortest possible time.
The year 2017 has seen a sharp increase in ceasefire violations by Pakistan.
Till August 1, there were 285 violations by Pakistani forces while in 2016, the number was significantly less at 228 for the entire year, according to Army figures.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has expressed grief and anguish over the killing of two children in cross-LoC shelling in Poonch district today.
In a statement, she said: “it is very unfortunate that the children became victims of fire power when they were yet to understand nuances of politics”. She directed the district administration to ensure specialized treatment to the people injured in the shelling.
Meanwhile, National Conference president Dr Farooq Abdullah and working president Omar Abdullah have also expressed deep grief over death of two children in shelling from across the Line of Control in Poonch.
Abdullahs extended deepest condolences to the bereaved families and prayed for peace to departed souls. They also wished speedy recovery to those injured.
They have expressed anguish over continued firing and shelling from across the LoC and International Border and called for ending the hostilities. They said the brunt of border skirmishes is being faced by the people of Jammu and Kashmir, especially those living in forward areas.
Farooq Abdullah called for adherence of ceasefire agreement, saying the beneficiaries of this would be the hapless people living on borders.
The NC president and the working president expressed solidarity with the bereaved families and those whose dear ones have been injured in the shelling.