SIALKOT: Three more civilians, two women among them, were killed by unprovoked Indian shelling on the border villages of Rorki-Harpal and Zafarwal along the Sialkot Working Boundary on Thursday.

The death toll rose to 13 in four days of intensified shelling by the Indian Border Security Forces (BSF).

According to Chenab Rangers officials, Rukhsana Bibi, 36, Mohammad Azam, 41, and Naseem Bibi, 35, were killed on the spot when heavy mortar shells fired by the BSF hit their houses in Rorki-Harpal and Zafarwal.

Imran Sadiq, Iqbal Hussain, Bashir Ahmed and Saleema Bibi were injured by the Indian shelling in Chaprar, Bajwat and Harpal sectors. Rescue 1122 personnel took them to the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) in Sialkot.

A total of 42 people were injured by the shelling. The condition of two of them was stated to be critical.

As many as 38 animals were also killed.

The officials said the Indian troops had shelled the border villages of Dhamaala-Charwah, Tulsipur, Rangor, Gandiyal, Sapwaal, Baghiyaari, Joiyaan, Bajra Garhi, Harpal, Anula, Khokhar, Nandpur, Jangura, Sakhiyaal, Kothey Raja, Salaankey, Beeni Sulehriyaan, Nandpur, Sakhiyaal, Kothey Raja, Tongar, Raja Harpal, Sukmaal, Daallowali, Chaprar, Thathi, Thathi Khurd, Meendarwal, Banot, Rangpur Jattan, Saalehpur, Kaliyaal, Chanur, Bholli Sambli, Looni Kheri, Suragpur, Kachchi Maand, Patoli and Dera Bhagu and other adjoining areas along the Working Boundary.

They said Chenab Rangers were retaliating effectively and responding in a befitting manner.

Tariq Naqash adds from Muzaffarabad: The Line of Control remained relatively calm on Thursday, but officials said the situation was still “unpredictable”.

“We are gearing ourselves up for heavy shelling… They (Indians) may resume it any time,” said Chaudhry Shaukat Ali, Deputy Commissioner of Kotli district, which has been witnessing skirmishes and artillery duels since Monday.

Local people said they had been spending sleepless nights since the hostilities mounted at the unmarked dividing line in Kashmir.

“We could not even celebrate Eidul Azha because of the cross-border shelling,” said Haji Azad, a resident of Nakyal sector in Kotli.

Shaukat Butt, a resident of Battal sector in the neighbouring Poonch district, said he feared the skirmishes and artillery duels might intensify in coming days. “When shells fall on houses panic is bound to grip the residents because it restricts their movements and cripples their daily lives.”

Deputy Commissioner Ali said the authorities had not ordered evacuation of people from vulnerable areas, but a number of families moved on their own to their relatives in comparatively safe areas. “We are discouraging the evacuation because it can lead to chaos,” he added.

The Azad Kashmir Minister for Finance and Planning, Chaudhry Latif Akbar, blamed India for the hostilities at the LoC. “It’s the Indians who started the shelling under the garb of preventing the so-called infiltration even though the entire Line of Control and Working Boundary have been sealed by them through a 12-foot high fence,” he told Dawn.

He said the ongoing spate of shelling was aimed at diverting international attention from India’s failure to provide relief to the Kashmiris hit by the worst-ever floods in a century. “India has not only failed to help the marooned Kashmiris, but is also subjecting them to torture for protesting against its failure.”

Mr Akbar said India’s “ill intentions” had been exposed after it asked the United Nations Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan to close down its office in New Delhi.

“We call upon the UN observers to visit the LoC to see for themselves the hostilities being committed by the trigger-happy Indian soldiers,” he said.

He warned that a further delay in ceasefire could spell disaster. “God forbid, if the escalation leads to a full blown war it will not be conventional because both sides are nuclear-armed.”

He urged India to realise the sensitivity of the situation.

Meanwhile, the All Party Kashmir Coordination Council, a loose alliance of political and religious parties and representatives of the APHC, has announced that it would hold rallies across Azad Kashmir on Friday to condemn the unprovoked and indiscriminate Indian shelling on the unarmed civilian population along the LoC and Working Boundary.

APP adds: Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif distributed on Thursday compensation cheques of Rs75,000 each among 23 people injured by the Indian shelling on Sialkot border villages.

He distributed the cheques during a visit to the Sialkot CMH.

He also announced Rs500,000 each for the families of those killed by the Indian shelling.

Published in Dawn, October 10th, 2014

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