A five-year-old girl was killed on Saturday when an Indian soldier opened fire in Azad Kashmir along the Line of Control (LoC), said local officials and witnesses.

According to police official Javed Iqbal, the orphan girl was killed when a single bullet by an Indian soldier hit her as she stood in the courtyard of her house in Polas village of Abbaspur sector in the southern Poonch district.

The girl, who had dressed up to celebrate Eid, was shifted to the nearest medical centre in Abbaspur on a motorbike after the incident. However, she succumbed to the gunshot, the official told DawnNews.

Enraged residents of Polas and adjoining areas carried the girl's body from the hospital to Abbaspur Bridge, where a protest was held against the “apathy of the state and the government towards the plight of the people living along the LoC”.

Speakers at the protest claimed that the civil administration and army had assured them of security at the LoC, “but had failed to keep their promise”.

“The protesters are demanding that the deputy commissioner or any other senior officer hold talks with them, but so far no one has turned up, perhaps because almost all officers are on leave to celebrate Eid with their families,” a local journalist, Badiuz Zaman, present at the protest site told DawnNews.

Zaman said that the protestors were demanding the construction of “colonies in relatively safer areas” for the residents of the locations highly vulnerable to Indian guns.

About a month ago, a number of families in areas within the Abbaspur sector had left their homes due to intense and indiscriminate cross-border shelling. Later, some of the families returned but others have not.

After the protests on Saturday, the girl's body was shifted to a roadside house where her last rites were performed.

Later in the evening, the funeral prayers of the deceased were offered. The prayers were performed twice due to the presence of a large number of mourners, Zaman said.

Abbaspur's tehsildar Malick Haleem reached the spot shortly after the funerals to hold talks with the demonstrators.

According to Zaman, the demonstrators made it clear to Haleem that if the government did not announce the construction of colonies for the LoC residents by Thursday, they would stage a massive demonstration on Friday.

After the talks between the demonstrators and the tehsildar, the girl's body was taken for burial in Batol village.

The heavily militarised LoC that splits the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir between India and Pakistan has been witnessing sporadic skirmishes and artillery duels for quite some time, in serious violation of a truce agreement signed by both sides in 2003.

Earlier this year in June, Zaheeruddin Qureshi, the director general of the Disaster Management Authority had informed the National Assembly's Standing Committee on Kashmir Affairs that unprovoked firing by Indian forces across the LoC had claimed 832 lives, injured 3,000 people and damaged 3,300 houses.

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