STATE TIMES NEWS
JAMMU: For the second time in three days, Pakistani troops on Saturday resorted to heavy shelling of several civilian areas near the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir, killing two people and injuring three and triggering migration of hundreds of people.
The firing and shelling by Pakistani troops started this morning and intensified towards the night, with 42 hamlets and several forward defence posts in Nowshera and Majakote sectors of Rajouri district being targeted, officials said.
The Indian Army said it was retaliating “strongly and effectively” to the indiscriminate firing by the Pakistani Army which used long-range 120 mm mortars and 82 mm mortars besides firing from small arms and automatic weapons.
The Pakistani firing and shelling started started at 7.15 am, targeting Jangarh, Bhawani and Laam belts of Nowshera in Rajouri district, officials said.
“Two persons have been killed and three others injured in the firing and shelling by Pakistani Army in Nowshera belt,” Deputy Commissioner (DC) of Rajouri Shahid Iqbal Choudhary said.
The deceased were identified as 51-year-old Tufail Hussain and his 13-year-old relative Asiya Bi. Tufail’s wife Zaitoon Begum was critically injured and was shifted to Government Medical College, Jammu.
Towards the night, the Pakistani Army resorted to the heaviest shelling and firing targeting 42 hamlets and several forward posts along the LoC in Nowshera and Manjakote sectors of Rajouri district, Choudhary said.
“There is the heaviest shelling going on from the Pakistani side. 42 hamlets along LoC have been affected in the shelling tonight,” said the DC who is camping in Nowshera.
Shells are landing very deep inside the Indian territory resulting in fear psychosis, he said. “There will definitely be injuries to the people. But we are still in the process of evacuating the people,” he said.
Earlier, Jammu-based Defence Ministry spokesman Lt Col Manish Mehta said the Indian Army was retaliating strongly and effectively” to the Pakistani shelling.
This is the third incident of ceasefire violation by Pakistan in as many days and so far three persons have died and six have been injured. A woman was killed in the shelling on Thursday.
In the wake of Pakistani shelling, schools along the LoC in Rajouri were today shut for an indefinite period as a precautionary measure, officials said.
All schools situated along the LoC in Rajouri district were closed on May 11 for two days after a woman was killed and two others including her husband were injured in Pakistani shelling on the intervening night of May 10-11.
“We have now closed the schools along the LoC in Rajouri district for an indefinite period,” Choudhary said.
Schools have also been shut along the LoC in Balakote sector in Poonch and people have been asked not to move out in border areas.
A BSF man had also suffered minor injury when Pakistani Rangers yesterday violated the ceasefire along the International Border.
After the Pakistani shelling, 743 people were evacuated from various areas along the LoC in Rajouri district to safer places.
District Administration, Rajouri has shifted 193 families comprised of 743 members to various relief camps from forward areas of Nowshera in wake of heavy mortar shelling.
A rescue team led by SP Nowshera Atul Sharma and SDM Nowshera Harbans Singh shifted more than 600 people from affected villages under the supervision of
Deputy Commissioner, Rajouri Dr Shahid Iqbal Choudhary conducted relief and rescue operation in Nowshera Sub-Division.
Three more ambulances were pressed into action late evening during reported break in shelling. Bullet-proof bunkers were inducted in forward villages which enabled shifting of 16-18 people in each ferry to base camp where buses were located for shifting to camps.
In relief camps of Nowshera and Bawli, 609 were shifted at around 2100 hours making the total number in camps 743. People were shifted from Jhangar, Sarya and Khamba villages.
DC Rajouri Dr Shahid Iqbal Choudhary said that “Our teams are moving with extreme caution in risk zone and team lead by SP Nowshera, SDM Nowshera, ARTO and other senior officers evacuated more than 600 people in last three hours” adding that ” more evacuation will be done overnight depending on the situation”. Number of camps will be increased tomorrow, he said.
Around 120 officers from various departments have been deployed to organise facilities at relief camp.
District administration provided immediate relief and financial assistance to the next of kin of the deceased and to the injured, he said.
A control room has been established in the office of SDM Nowshera for coordination.
The government had last month said that Pakistani security forces had violated the ceasefire 268 times in the last one year. Nine persons were killed in these incidents.
Minister of State for Defence Subhash Bhamre had said some time back that between April 2016 and March 2017, the maximum of 88 violations were witnessed in November 2016 followed by 78 in October 2016 and 22 in March this year.
The ceasefire between India and Pakistan came into force in November 2003.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti has expressed grief over the death of two civilians and injuries to few others.
She has directed the Deputy Commissioner, Rajouri to immediately send rescue teams to the spot and ensure proper treatment of the injured and relocation of the affected people to safer places.
Deputy Chief Minister, Dr Nirmal Singh has expressed deep shock and grief over loss of lives in shelling.
He strongly condemned targeting of civilian areas and resorting to repeated ceasefire violations by Pakistan.
National Conference President Dr Farooq Abdullah and Working President, Omar Abdullah also condemned the continued shelling from across the border and expressed deep grief and anguish over the deaths of civilians in forward areas.
The President and the Working President prayed for peace to the departed souls and strength to the bereaved families to bear their irreparable loss.
Minister for Food, Civil Supplies & Consumer Affairs Chowdhary Zulfkar Ali in a condolence message, conveyed his sympathies to the members of the bereaved families.
Provincial President National Conference Jammu, Devender Rana has also expressed deep grief and anguish over the deaths and expressed solidarity with the families at this hour of grief.
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