STATE TIMES NEWSJammu: At least 16 animals were killed as Pakistan army pounded civilian areas with heavy mortar shelling along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch and Rajouri districts, officials said on Saturday. 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 on Saturday, they said. A defence spokesperson said Pakistan initiated the unprovoked ceasefire violation by targeting Nowshera sector in Rajouri, Balakote area in Mendhar sector, and Shahpur and Kerni sectors in Poonch district, drawing befitting response from the Indian army. 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, he said. At about 9.45 am on Saturday, 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, the spokesman added. The exchange of firing between the two sides was going on in these sectors when reports came in last, he said. Poonch Deputy Commissioner Rahul Yadav said 16 domestic animals were killed in the overnight Pakistani shelling in the 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,” Yadav said.
Officials said 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.
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