ISLAMABAD: Nine civilians were killed and at least 25 wounded on Monday in fighting along a stretch of the disputed border between India and Pakistan in the Kashmir region.
An Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) statement issued on Monday said that Indian Border Security Forces (BSF) personnel resorted to “unprovoked firing” along the working boundary in Sialkot as a result of which four people were killed whereas five others sustained injuries.
Details of those killed at the working boundary:
- Salima Bibi w/o Abdul Ghani — Village Dhamala
- Adeel Ahmed (age 10 yrs) s/o Mohd Jamil — Village Dhamala
- Hamad Ahmed (age 4 yrs) s/o Mohd Jamil — Village Dhamala
- Abdul Razak (age 65 yrs) s/o Lal Din — Village Tulsipur
Three of the injured five were identified as:
- Mohammad Ishaq (age 70 yrs) s/o Shukar Din — Village Tulsipur
- Mohammadd Rashim (age 72 yrs) s/o Mola Bush — Village Dhamala
- Kashif (age 10 yrs) s/o Mohd Butta — Village Harpal
Four civilians, including two children and a woman, were killed on the first day of Eidul Azha, the statement said, adding that “Pakistan Rangers have effectively responded to BSF fire.” Indian forces also resorted to unprovoked firing on LoC in Nikial, Karela, Kot Kettera, Hot Spring and Jandrot sectors, the statement added.
The ISPR said Pakistani troops are effectively responding to Indian firing; however no loss of life has been reported as yet.
Earlier on Sunday, Indian troops violated the Line of Control (loC) ceasefire and resorted to unprovoked firing in Jandroot Sector near Kotli.
India reports five casualties
Inspector general of the Indian BSF, Rakesh Kumar, alleged however that Pakistani forces shelled the village of Arnia about three km (two miles) from the border in the early hours of Monday, killing five and wounding at least two dozen civilians.
Another Indian officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Brijesh Panday, said the army later shot dead three alleged militants trying to cross into India further along the heavily militarised LoC. Two alleged militants escaped to Pakistan, he said.
Indian authorities say Muslim separatists have been fighting BSF in Indian-administered Kashmir since 1989. Pakistan rejects Indian accusations that it trains and arms rebels in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.
The defense and military authorities of both Pakistan and India have vowed to give a “befitting” response to border skirmishes. The Himalayan region of Kashmir has been a bone of contention between India and Pakistan since independence in 1947. The countries have fought three wars and came close to a fourth in 2001 and there have been regular clashes along the de facto border, known as the Line of Control (LoC), in the area.
Kashmiris flee as violence escalates
Tens of thousands of villagers fled their homes in Kashmir on Monday, as Indian and Pakistani troops bombarded each other with gunfire and mortar.
“First we heard gunshots,” said Akshit Kumar, a resident of Arnia, a town in Indian-administered Kashmir.
“But as the shelling started, that's when we decided to flee.”
On the Indian side, officials were evacuating tens of thousands of people from Arnia and nearby villages to underground bunkers and government shelters.
A man said he was sleeping on the lawn outside his home on the outskirts of Arnia when a mortar shell landed and exploded on a nearby house, killing his neighbour and wounding five other people.
“There is panic,” said Jammu's top administrator, Shantmanu, who goes by one name.
“We're trying to give them a sense of security and temporary shelters.
“Many saw the chaos as part of what's become a predictable cycle of violence in a region riven by decades-old animosities.
A similar outburst of cross-border violence in August led about 15,000 villagers to flee temporarily.
In December last year, Pakistan and India had pledged to uphold the 2003 LoC ceasefire accord which had been left in tatters by repeated violations that year. The truce breaches had put the nascent bilateral peace dialogue on hold.
The directors general of military operations (DGMOs) of the two countries had agreed to a number of steps to keep the ceasefire accord intact.
The meeting had taken place on the initiative of the political leadership of the two countries for ending tensions along the LoC.
The Himalayan territory of Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan by the UN-monitored de facto border of LoC but is claimed in full by both the countries.
Ceasefire violations along the LoC and working boundary between Pakistan and India continue intermittently, with casualties reported on both sides.
Official sources say unprovoked firing by Indian troops on the working boundary has been continuing for the past many weeks.