As India-held Kashmir braced for stepped-up policing Saturday on the occasion of the first death anniversary of famed Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, Indian troops resorted to heavy shelling in different areas of Azad Jammu and Kashmir from across the Line of Control (LoC), officials said.
At least five civilians, four of them women, were reported killed and 10 others injured in the shelling incidents, the highest death toll in a single day in many months of cross-border violence.
“There has been heavy firing and shelling by Indian troops in different parts of Abbaspur and Hajira sectors since 5:30am in the morning,” said Raja Tahir Mumtaz, the deputy commissioner of district Poonch, where these two sectors fall in.
He said Mohammad Sharif, a 75-year-old resident of Bhaira village near the Tetrinote crossing point in Hajira sector, lost his life after a mortar shell landed on his mud-house, destroying it completely.
Apart from him, 70-year-old woman Sassi Begum was also killed in Tetrinote. She had come from Mandhol village in Battal sector to see her relatives in Tetrinote.
DC Mumtaz said Riyasat, 35, and Aqsa Iftikhar, 18, were injured in Tetrinote.
Meanwhile, a 26-year-old woman, Faiza Saleem, was killed and two young girls — Adiba, 22, and Mahnoor, 17 — were injured in Satwal village of Abbaspur sector. They belonged to the same family, Mumtaz said.
Another woman, Kulsoom, 35, was killed and her 14-year-old son Zahid injured in the Dhakki Chafar village of Abbaspur sector, he added.
“Initially, Zahid was injured and when Kulsoom rushed to rescue him, she too fell victim to the shelling and died on the spot,” the deputy commissioner said.
Abida Parveen, 22, was injured in Chafar and two teenaged boys, Rizwan Hanif, 16, and Faizan Ali, 14, were injured in Batol and Chaatra villages of the same sector, he added.
“These are the initial reports, but given the magnitude of shelling, I am afraid the casualties may rise,” the deputy commissioner said.
In Kotli district, a 22-year-old girl, Aniba Jamshed, was critically injured in Indian firing in the Lanjot village of Nakyal sector at about 6:30am.
"A bullet fired by the Indian troops hit her in the head, rendering her critically wounded," a police official told Dawn from Nakyal police station, adding that she was rushed to District Headquarters Hospital Kotli.
“The woman [later] succumbed to her injuries in the afternoon,” SSP Kotli Chaudhry Zulqarnain Sarfraz told Dawn.
Elsewhere in the same sector, two men — Mohammad Ilyas and Jahangir — were injured in the Oli Panjni village, he added.
The heavily militarised LoC that splits the disputed region of Jammu and Kashmir between Pakistan and India has been extremely tense for quite some time, and as a result civilian casualties occur frequently.
The latest casualties have pushed the number of those killed in AJK in Indian shelling during the ongoing year to 18 and those injured to over 105, according to officials at the State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA).
FO lodges protest with India
The Foreign Office (FO) summoned Indian Deputy High Commissioner JP Singh to lodge a protest against the "unprovoked" ceasefire violation.
The FO's Director General (South Asia and Saarc), Dr Muhammad Faisal, lodged the protest.
"The deliberate targeting of civilians is deplorable and contrary to human dignity and international human rights and humanitarian laws," Faisal said.
He urged India to respect the 2003 ceasefire agreement, to investigate this and other incidents of ceasefire violations, to instruct Indian forces to respect the agreement, and to maintain peace on LoC.