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A boy is being treated in a hospital after he suffered wounds in unprovoked firing by Indian forces in the Bhimber sector.—Online
A boy is being treated in a hospital after he suffered wounds in unprovoked firing by Indian forces in the Bhimber sector.—Online

MUZAFFARABAD/ISLAMABAD: Tension between Pakistan and India went a notch higher on Saturday when the Line of Control witnessed the downing by the Pakistani army of an Indian reconnaissance drone as well as four civilian casualties on this side of the LoC.

The new low in bilateral ties follows a disclosure on Friday by Pakistan Navy that it had detected and driven away on Nov 14 an Indian submarine when it was attempting to intrude into Pakistani waters.

The army claimed to have downed the Indian drone when it was trying to infiltrate Pakistani airspace, near the LoC. The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was a small quadcopter type vehicle, the Inter-Services Public Relations said, adding that it had intruded some 60 metres into the Pakistani side.

The Indian military uses quadcopters for taking images of Pakistani posts along the LoC as part of its intelligence-gathering operations and target selection before carrying out cross-LoC shelling.

The UAV was taken down at ‘Aagahi Post’ in Rakhchakri sector near Rawalakot at around 4:45pm.

“It fell near Aagahi post and its wreckage has been taken over by Pakistani troops,” the ISPR said.

The exchanges along the LoC and Working Boundary this year intensified after the terrorist attack on an Indian military camp at Uri in held Kashmir.

Indian shelling along LoC claims four more lives

Military analysts say India is involved in dangerous posturing by resorting to use of artillery, targeting of civilians and increased reconnaissance. Last year, the army claimed to have downed a similar spy drone in the Bhimber sector in July. India had denied the incident at the time and Pakistan then released recordings recovered from the UAV to prove its claim.

Civilian casualties

Three young girls and a teenage boy were killed and four others were injured when Indian troops carried out heavy shelling on villages in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), officials said.

All but one of the casualties occurred in one home in the Keri sector of Charhoi tehsil in the southern district of Kotli, where, according to Assistant Comm­issioner Raja Arif Mehmood, “intermittent but heavy” shelling began at about 9:45am.

One of the shells landed in the courtyard of a house in Barjial, a hamlet close to the village of Sabzkot, killing Shehzad (18), his sister Faiza (10), and cousin Areeba (5).

Shehzad’s siblings Mahmood (24) and Shanza (12), as well as Areeba’s elder sister Iqra (12), were critically injured and rushed to the District Headquarters (DHQ) hospital in the neighbouring Mirpur district.

Shanza did not make it, while Iqra was later shifted to the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) in Mangla, where her condition is said to be critical. Mahmood was discharged after being treated at DHQ Mirpur hospital.

Chaudhry Mohammad Yasin, who represents Charhoi in the AJK Legislative Assembly, described the scenes in the affected areas as “harrowing”.

“I am still in a state of shock,” he told Dawn.

He said that targeting innocent children was no less than a “war crime” on the part of Indian troops.

The funeral of the children will be held near their village at 1pm on Sunday.

AJK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider condemned the “unprovoked” shelling by Indian troops, which he said had left scores of people dead or injured, besides triggering displacement.

Elsewhere, officials said, Tazeem Bibi and a 12-year-old boy were seriously injured in the Baroh village in the southernmost Bhimber district, where “intense shelling” started in the Samahni sector in the morning and in the Barnala sector in the afternoon.

Officials said that the Chakothi sector was also hit by Indian troops with mortar guns, but no casualties were reported.

In a statement, ISPR said that Pakistani troops were “responding to Indian shelling befittingly and effectively targeting Indian posts” in different sectors.

An exchange of fire was ongoing in different sectors until the filing of this report.

This latest act of aggression rounds off a tense week along the LoC, where seven Pakistani soldiers were martyred by Indian firing.

Saturday’s deaths were the first civilian casualties in the past 10 days. On Nov 8, three persons were killed and as many wounded in the Battal sector of Poonch district, while three others killed in the Nakyal sector of Kotli on Nov 7.

Published in Dawn November 20th, 2016