- 2 civilians, 6 soldiers injured in Keran, Rajouri
- 10 civilians killed by Indian shelling: Pakistan
- Shelling on NHPC project, work suspended
Indian troops resumed heavy shelling on Wednesday after a day-long lull and reportedly targeted a passenger bus in Pakistan administered Kashmir’s Lawat area, killing nine people and injuring 11 others. Indian troops also allegedly fired at an ambulance which went into the area for evacuation, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said.
A total of 10 people have been killed today, and 18 others wounded in Indian shelling, reports said.
“Indian troops hit a passenger coaster with small and big arms in the town of Lawat, killing nine passengers and injuring 11 others,” said Jamil Mir, superintendent of police (SP) in Neelum Valley.
“Four bodies and all 11 injured persons have arrived in District Headquarters Hospital Athmuqam, but five bodies are still in the coaster,” SP Mir said.
The coaster was on its way to Muzaffarabad. Lawat is located some 90 kilometres northeast of here in the upper belt of valley that straddles the restive Line of Control (LoC).
SP Mir said shelling in Neelum valley had begun at about 3 a.m, but intensified in the morning. Officials from other areas had similar stories.
In a separate incident of Indian shelling in Nakyal, one person was killed and six others injured.
Sardar Zeeshan Nisar, assistant commissioner of Nakyal, in the southern Kotli district said, “Shelling in my area has started at about 8:40 a.m, and it has been indiscriminate.”
The assistant commissioner said six people were injured, and one person who was earlier wounded had succumbed to his injuries.
“So far, four injured persons have been brought to a health facility,” Nisar said earlier, “But I am afraid there may be more casualties, as shelling is ongoing.”
Tatta Pani sector of district Kotli was also receiving shells. According to an official at the office of the deputy commissioner Kotli, one person was injured in the area.
Locals in Battal, Madarpur sectors of district Poonch said their areas were also hit by heavy shelling.
“There were unconfirmed reports about some people having been injured, but we are awaiting confirmation,” a police official said from Madarpur.
ISPR in a statement confirmed that Pakistani and Indian troops had exchanged fire across the LoC on Wednesday.
Indian forces were targeting the civilian population, ISPR said, adding that a civilian bus and ambulance were fired at.
“An intense exchange of fire is ongoing as Pakistani troops target Indian posts.”
Earlier, ISPR said, “Indian resorted to unprovoked firing and shelling on LoC in Shahkot, Jura, Battal, Karela, Bagh , Bagsar, Hotspring sectors today.”
Pakistan cabinet condemns ‘unprovoked’ Indian firing:
The federal cabinet during a meeting in Islamabad today strongly condemned the ‘unprovoked’ Indian firing along the LoC and extended its condolences to the affected families, Radio Pakistan reported.
The latest incident of cross-border firing comes just a day after the Indian army said three of its soldiers were killed along the LoC and threatened Pakistani forces of retribution.
The Indian army also claimed that the body of one of the dead soldiers had been “mutilated.”
The Foreign Office however rejected the claim, saying that the “reports are a fabrication and a blatant attempt to malign Pakistan.”
‘Situation critical along LoC’:
PaK Legislative Assembly Speaker Shah Ghulam Qadir who has returned from Neelum valley said the situation was critical all along the LoC.
“I call upon the government of Pakistan to raise the unprovoked shelling of civilian populations as an issue in the UN Security Council to build pressure on India,” he told journalists in Muzaffarabad.
He said since Neelum valley was highly vulnerable to Indian guns, “a great trial had begun for its nearly 250,000 residents.”
He claimed that Indian troops were not even allowing transportation of injured persons to Muzaffarabad.
Cross-border firing a new normal:
Tensions between Pakistan and India have been running high following Indian surgical strike, unrest in Kashmir and the Uri army base attack in September.
Since then there have been repeated outbreaks of cross-border firing in Kashmir, with both sides reporting deaths and injuries including of civilians.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi stepped up a drive to isolate Pakistan diplomatically after the Uri army base attack in which 19 Indian soldiers were killed. Hours after the attack occurred, Home Minister Rajnath Singh termed Pakistan a ‘terrorist state’ and accused Pakistan of involvement.
The Uri attack occurred 2 days before Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was set to address the United Nations General Assembly regarding alleged human rights violations in Kashmir.
Following the attack, India said it had conducted a cross-border surgical strike against ‘launch pads of terror’ in PaK— a claim Pakistan has strongly rejected.
Pakistan maintains that India is attempting to divert the world’s attention away from atrocities committed by government forces in Kashmir.
Two civilians and six soldiers were injured in cross border shelling that is unabatedly going on in Keran and Rajouri Sectors since wee hours of Wednesday.
The civilian injuries have taken place in Keran Sector and cross border shelling has started a day after the killing of three 57 Rashtirya Rifle (RR) soldiers in Machil Sectors allegedly by Border Action Team (BAT) of Pakistan.
“Two civilians have received injuries in cross border shelling in Keran Sector,” Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Kupwara, Shamsher Hussain told Kashmir Post. He identified the injured as Bashir Ahmad Khan and Roshni Bagum.
Yesterday Indian Army vowed “heavy retribution” to the attack on its soldiers. Today Brigadier General Staff (BGS) of Northern Command, Brig P S Gotra, said Indian Army launched a counter offensive along the LoC in retaliation to offensive in Machil sector.
A senior official of Udhampur based Northern Command said that Army launched assault at LoC at some places after killing of three soldiers. “We had vowed to avenge the killing of the three soldiers in Machil sector who were ambushed apparently by Pakistani regulars and irregulars close to the LoC,” he told Kashmir Post adding that assault at LoC was launched early Wednesday morning.
The official said that Pakistan too retaliated. “Both sides used heavy weapons,” he said.
In Keran Sector the Army has launched offensive from Ferkyan Gali, Shudi, North Hilld and Balbir posts.
In Gurez Sector, Pakistani artillery shells have landed at over six places, however there has been no damage to life or property. “Shells landed at over six places in Gurez,” SSP Bandipora Zulfikar Azad told Kashmir Post. He said some shells landed near a stone crusher owned by National Hydro Electric Power Corporation near Kanzalwan area.
A report said that there has been additional build up at LoC in north Kashmir since Tuesday evening.
Sumit Bhargav, Javed Iqbal add from Jammu:
Indian and Pakistani troops on Wednesday exchanged heavy gunfire and shelling in several sectors of twin border districts of Rajouri and Poonch in which three personnel of Border Security Force and three soldiers of army were injured.
Details said that at 9 a.m, firing and shelling started in Balakote and Krishna Ghati sectors of Mendhar sub-division in Poonch, with Pakistani mortar shells landing in several villages.
In these twin sectors of Mendhar, officials said heavy shelling lasted from 9 a.m to 3 p.m after which intermittent shelling was on till last reports came in.
Reports said in Mendhar Mankote, a BSF man namely Head Constable Manjeet Singh received splinter injury while guarding a forward post in Nangi Tekri area.
Similarly in BG, Manjakote and Nowshera sectors of Rajouri district, shelling started at about 9 a.m and areas including BG, Hamirpur, Kanga Gali, Niaka Panjgrian, Peryali, Khori Nar, Kalal, Deeing, Baba Khori and others.
In Niaka Panjgrian village, a huge dry grass heap, referred to as ‘Ghari’ in local parlance, owned by Barqat Hussain son of Muhammad Yousaf got reduced to ashes when a shell landed over it.
Besides, house of Muhammad Khaliq son of Dil Muhammad of Khori Nar also got damaged when a mortar shell landed on it and all the family members had a narrow escape.
Besides, two Border Security Force personnel of 163 Battalion got injured when a shell landed near them in Tarkundi sector of Rajouri and both were evacuated for treatment while one was referred to Army Hospital Rajouri and the other to a local medical unit.
Three soldiers of army got injured in Nowshera Kalal when a mortar shell landed near them.
All these soldiers – identified as Satvinder, Baldev and Sarabjeet – were evacuated and two of them were later airlifted for advanced treatment.
Authorities today kept vehicular traffic suspended on Balakote-Mendhar road as a precaution. All schools located in border belts of Mendhar sub-division were also closed.
In Rajouri district, all educational institutions in border areas were closed as a precautionary step.
Amid fresh spell of firing, tension has gripped the entire western border with BSF and Army strengthening its presence in the area.
Sources said that high alert has been sounded in Samba, Hiranagar, Pallawala, Pargwal, Kanachak, Suchetghar, R S Pura and other sectors, which earlier came under Pak shelling.
They added that Border Security Force and Army have intensified patrolling and surveillance all along IB and LoC.
“Strict orders have been passed to the troops,” a BSF officer said, adding, “The personnel guarding borders have been asked to remain prepared for any situation.”
Police headquarters has also given directions to its personnel to be on high vigil in border towns, sources said.
Meanwhile, work on 330 Megawatt Kishenganga Hydro Electric Power Project was suspended after it came under mortar shelling from across the border in Gurez sector Wednesday morning.
An official of Hindustan Constructions Company (HCC), executing agency of the NHPC-owned project, told Kashmir Post that in view of mortar shelling near dam site and stone crusher from across the border, work on the project has been suspended.
He said that around half a dozen mortar shells landed within 50-100 meters of HCC-owned crusher plant and dam site in Malik Kadal area of Gurez. “The officers, labourers and other workers took shelter in a tunnel,” he added.
Pakistan and India have, most recently, locked horns over Kashmir since Indian forces stepped up a crackdown against protesters after Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani was killed by government forces on July 8.