A teenage boy and a man were killed and at least 13 others were injured as Indian troops continued to pound civilian populations along the Line of Control (LoC) in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) with mortar shells on Wednesday, local officials said.

A press release from the Inter-Services Public Relations on Wednesday evening stated that a soldier had also been martyred in the assault, while two were critically injured.

"Pakistan Army aggressively responded on Indian posts," read the release. "Response destroyed Indian posts firing on Pakistani posts/civilians. Five Indian soldiers killed, many injured. Indian guns silent due to effective engagement."

"Unprovoked cease fire violations shall always be responded strongly, aggressive and effectively by Pakistan Army," the director general of the army's media wing was quoted as saying.

According to Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) Rashid Naeem Khan, Wednesday had been the worst day for the Nakyal sector of Kotli district in terms of casualties.

He said one person was killed and at least 10 others wounded in indiscriminate Indian shelling in Nakyal, while one person was killed and two others injured in Nezapir sector of Haveli district. The Samahni sector of southernmost Bhimber district remained relatively calm, as only one person was injured there.

A 42-year-old man, Ilyas Khan, was killed after a mortar shell hit his house in the Dharoti Balakot village. The injured included Mohammad Iqbal, Kashif, Afzal, Mehboob, Haseeb, Mohammad Bashir, Ambreen Kosar, Umair Mughal, Mohammad Afzal, and Raqeeb Hussain, the DIG told Dawn.

“Reports pouring in from affected areas suggest that Indian troops are ruthlessly targeting civilian populations, causing considerable material losses as well,” DIG Khan said.

Haji Azad, a journalist based in Nakyal, told Dawn that the constant shelling was causing huge losses.

“It is the heaviest shelling [so far] … they [Indian troops] have caused utter destruction,” he said.

A local police official said that police were unable to gather exact details of the losses due to constant shelling.

“We have poor telecommunication service in areas along the LoC, which is why details about losses reach us quite late,” he said.

Indian troops also shelled Nezapir sector of Haveli district in Poonch division on Wednesday, leaving three young boys — Sajad, 14, Waseem, 13, and Rafaqat, 16 — wounded in Nallah dhok (high altitude grassland) near Kairni village, DIG Poonch Sajjad Hussain told Dawn.

The victims were evacuated to the military dressing station in Kahuta with great difficulty, where Sajad succumbed to his wounds, he said.

The heavily militarised LoC has been tense for quite some time and military and civilians are frequently being targeted.

A day earlier, Indian forces had fired mortar shells into the Bhimber and Kotli districts of Mirpur division located in the south of AJK, as a result of which two people had died and 12 had been injured in the Samahani sector of Bhimber.

On Monday, six persons were injured in Nakyal, followed by four on Tuesday.

On Sunday, a Pakistan Army vehicle was hit by Indian troops from across the LoC, resulting in the death of four soldiers.

In their weekly hotline contact on Monday, Pakistan’s DGMO had communicated Pakistan’s demarche to his Indian counterpart 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 had made it clear that while the Pakistan Army had been exercising restraint, recurrence of any such incident in future could however leave it with no choice but to respond with further “strong and effective” steps, including choking India’s military supply lines.

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