Unrelenting Indian shelling from across the Line of Control (LoC) left two civilians dead and at least 13 others wounded in two different sectors of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) on Tuesday, officials said, fearing that the fresh wave of Indian aggression could cause more physical and material losses.
The casualties occurred in the Samahni sector of Bhimber district and the Nakyal sector of Kotli district amid “unprovoked and intense” shelling by the Indian troops, they said.
The shelling in Samahni sector started at about 1pm, with Indian troops targeting civilian populations with both small and big weapons in almost all villages along the dividing line, said Deputy Commissioner (DC) Chaudhry Guftar Hussain.
Hussain said that two civilians had so far lost their lives while another seven were injured.
He identified the deceased as Arsalan, 9, and Yasira Bibi, 42, of Tandar and Gorah villages, respectively.
Those injured included Arsalan’s father, Munsifdad, of Tandar; Iqra Shamrez, 15, and Aiza Azam, 12, of Chahi village; Ghulam Hussain, 60, and his son Adnan, 16, of Gahi Baroh village; Mohammad Ibrahim, 75, of Sona village; Mohammad Riaz, 50, of Ghotan Tandar; Atif Razak, 35, of Danna Kathyala and Waqar, 28, (a resident of Narowal who used to work with Atif Razak).
The injured had been evacuated to different health facilities, the DC said.
“Since the shelling is continuing intermittently, we are unable to gather exact details about the losses,” he said, fearing that the number of victims could swell.
Shelling in the Nakyal sector of Kotli district started in the small hours of Tuesday, according to local police official Khurshid Ahmed.
Though shelling was intermittent and stopped at midday, Ahmed said it was “heavy,” crippling normal life in most of the villages lying on the heavily militarised frontier.
He identified the injured as Mohammad Bashir, 70, and his 27-year old son Imran Bashir of Mohra village; and Mohammad Khan, 70, and his 67-year old spouse Jan Begum of Naar Malikan village.
Mohammad Khan was rushed to the District Headquarters Hospital Kotli, while the other three were being treated at the Tehsil Headquarters Hospital, Nakyal, the official said.
While state-run schools were already closed due to summer vacations, the administration in Nakyal had asked all private schools in the most vulnerable areas to remain shut.
On Monday, six civilians had also been injured in Nakyal.
Condemning Indian shelling, AJK’s senior minister Chaudhry Tariq Farooq called upon the international community to take stock of the situation along the LoC.
“India’s belligerence along the LoC is reprehensible and it should not go unnoticed,” said Farooq, who belongs to Bhimber.
The LoC that splits the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir between nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan has been tense for quite some time.
On Sunday, a Pakistan army vehicle also fell into the Neelum river after it was targetted from across the border. As a result, four soldiers were martyred.
On Monday, Pakistan’s Director General of Military Operations (DGMO), Maj Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza, had communicated Pakistan’s demarche to his Indian counterpart, Lt Gen Anil Kumar Bhatt, to protest the “deliberate targeting of Pakistan army’s vehicle resulting in the martyrdom of four soldiers, besides injuring one soldier and a civilian passerby.”
He also made it clear that while Pakistan Army had been exercising restraint, the recurrence of any such incident in the future could leave it with no choice but to respond with “strong and effective” steps, including choking India’s military supply line.
“While we don’t want to go down the path where we start choking each other’s supply lines; however, any such recurrence will invoke more strong and effective measures from Pakistan’s side,” Maj Gen Mirza had told Lt Gen Bhatt, according an Inter Services Public Relations press release.