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Thousands flee AJK villages as LoC tensions escalate

Updated July 11, 2017
Families from Azad Jammu and Kashmir take shelter in a state-run school in Abbaspur city on Monday after fleeing their village along the LoC because of cross-border shelling by Indian troops.— AFP
Families from Azad Jammu and Kashmir take shelter in a state-run school in Abbaspur city on Monday after fleeing their village along the LoC because of cross-border shelling by Indian troops.— AFP

MUZAFFARABAD: Thousands of people have fled their homes in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, officials said on Monday, as continued shelling between Pakistan and India escalated tensions along the Line of Control (LoC).

Authorities confirmed the exodus saying around 3,000 people have left their villages along the Line of Control in Abbaspur sector after heavy shelling by Indian troops over the past two weeks.

Sajid Hussain, a senior administration official in the area, said that most of the people fled from four of the worst affected villages near the LoC.

“We are in the process of registering the migrating people,” said Mr Hussain, adding that many families had moved in with relatives while another 50 families took shelter in government buildings.

Elderly resident Mohammad Saiddique said that about 80 per cent of people from his village near the LoC had fled.

At least six people have been killed and more than 20 wounded in Abbaspur sector in the latest wave of unrest along the LoC in the past two weeks, said Mr Hussain.

The villagers’ flight comes as government forces clashed with stone-throwing protesters in India-held Kashmir on Saturday, as the volatile Himalayan territory marked the anniversary of a hugely popular militant leader’s death.

The valley has seen an explosion of protests against Indian rule since government forces shot and killed Burhan Wani a year ago.

The death of the charismatic 23-year-old, who had built up a big following on social media, sparked an outpouring of grief and anger that spilled into the streets and led to months of clashes with Indian forces.

Published in Dawn, July 11th, 2017