The Pakistan Army has destroyed an Indian army post along the Line of Control (LoC) while responding to firing by Indian troops targeting civilians, the military's media wing said on Thursday.

Five Indian soldiers were killed and many injured when Pakistani troops destroyed the Indian army post that was "targeting innocent citizens" in Tatta Pani (Hot Spring) sector of Azad Jammu and Kashmir's southern Kotli district, Director General of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor said in a tweet.

"Indian terrorism against innocent citizens shall be responded [to] befittingly," he wrote. Ghafoor's tweet also included a video showing the reported targeting of the Indian post.

The development comes hours after Indian troops hit a school van in a highly vulnerable border village in AJK, killing its driver on the spot, local officials said.

The van was bringing back at least four students from Mandhol to their homes in the Dharamsal area, where it was targeted by Indian troops at about 1:30pm, Assistant Commissioner of Hajira Sikandar Hayat told Dawn by telephone.

“Indian troops aimed at the vehicle with burst fire … and as a result, the driver lost his life on the spot,” he said. He identified the victim as Mohammad Sarfraz.

“The students sitting in the vehicle, however, miraculously escaped unhurt,” Hayat said.

Mandhol is located on the right bank of River Poonch, while Dharamsal lies on the left bank. An Indian army post is just a stone’s throw away from this highly vulnerable village. These villages are part of the Battal sector in Hajira tehsil of Poonch district.

According to locals, though most of the families had lately moved out of Dharamsal due to unrelenting Indian shelling, some still lived there at the peril of their lives.

Condemning the incident, Maj Gen Ghafoor noted that India’s unethical and unprofessional approach across the LoC continues to terrorise civilians.

“[Indian troops] targeted van carrying schoolchildren in Battal sector, in violation of Geneva Convention and the ceasefire understanding. Van driver embraced shahadat,” he tweeted.

The heavily militarised dividing line is witnessing constant cross-border shelling in a serious breach of a truce agreement signed in November 2003 by the two armies.

It’s not the first time Indian troops have targeted a civilian vehicle in AJK. In November 2016, a passenger bus was hit by Indian troops in the upper belt of Neelum valley, leaving nine persons dead on the spot and another 11 wounded. Of the wounded, three later succumbed to their injuries in different health facilities.

Exactly three weeks after that incident, a school van was targeted in the Nakyal sector of Kotli district, leaving its driver dead and eight young students injured.

Protest lodged with India

Meanwhile, the Foreign Office (FO) summoned Indian Deputy High Commissioner J.P. Singh to protest the latest "unprovoked" ceasefire violation by India across the LoC in which a school van was targeted.

"Despite calls for restraint, India continues to indulge in ceasefire violations," a press release issued by the FO said.

According to the FO, Indian forces have committed more than 335 ceasefire violations since the start of 2018, killing 14 civilians and injuring 65 others.

"The deliberate targeting of civilian populated areas is indeed deplorable and contrary to human dignity, international human rights and humanitarian laws," the statement said.

With additional reporting by Naveed Siddiqui in Islamabad.


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