Heavy Indian shelling from across the Line of Control (LoC) left at least 19 persons, including women and children, wounded in different parts of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) on Wednesday, officials said.
The shelling started in Khuiratta sector of Kotli district at about 2:30pm and was the “heaviest” in many months, according to Khuiratta Assistant Commissioner (AC) Ali Asghar.
“The Indian troops indiscriminately targeted houses and educational institutions without an iota of shame,” he said, as he spoke to Dawn from Seri village, amid the thunder of falling shells.
According to AC Asghar, seven persons, including three women, were injured in Seri village, while a teenager was injured in Janjot Bahadur village.
He identified the victims in Seri as Munir Begum, 50, Somia Zubair, 28, Moeen Riaz, 22, Sheharyar Jabir, 22, and his cousin Aamer Suleman, 21, Anwar Begum, 80, and Abdul Qadeer, 25. The victim in Janjot Bahadur village was identified as Danish Rauf, 16.
District Headquarters (DHQ) Hospital Kotli superintendent Dr Tariq Mehmood told Dawn that most of the injured persons had been brought to his facility. “Some of them are in critical condition,” he said.
AC Asghar added that apart from human casualties, three buffaloes of one Mistri Tofeeq were also killed in the neighbouring Tain village. He said that the shelling had also damaged many houses.
The assistant commissioner revealed that some shells landed on the premises of Girls Inter College and Boys High School Seri where students were appearing in 10th-grade exams under the AJK Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education (BISE) in the second (afternoon) shift.
"Panic spread at both centres and students ran out for their lives. Fortunately, no one was wounded,” he said.
Kotli’s deputy commissioner Abdul Hameed Kiani told Dawn that he had written to the BISE chairperson to fix some other date for Wednesday's paper. Subsequently, exam centres in Seri had also been shifted to Gora Balyal and Syedpur villages, he added.
In Poonch district, heavy shelling started in Battal sector of Hajira district at about 4:30pm, and left 10 persons wounded in different villages, according to deputy commissioner Raja Tahir Mumtaz.
He identified the victims as Shah Begum, 50, Adil Mohammad, 11, Furqan Taraf, 18, in Dharamsal village; Nahila Bibi, 15, Anwar Jan, 40, in Rakkar Dabi village; Lubna Khalid, 27, in Mandhol village; Arzu Rahim, 10, and her sister Aiman Rahim, 6, Konain Hafeez, 15, and Zahida Begum, 40, in Battal village.
Shelling was also reported from the southernmost Bhimber district, where according to deputy commissioner Chaudhry Guftar, a 25-year old woman Mehreen Amir was injured in Abdullahpur village of tehsil Samahni.
The heavily militarised LoC is frequently witnessing ceasefire violations in a serious breach of the Nov 2003 truce agreement between the two armies, causing mostly civilian casualties.
On Tuesday, a woman was injured in Tetrinote village of tehsil Hajira in Poonch district.
Prior to that, a young woman was killed and her two siblings and a cousin critically wounded in Nakyal sector of Kotli district in a rocket attack from across the LoC on Saturday.
A day before that, three persons were wounded in Charhoi and Khuiratta sectors of the same district.
Kotli's DC Kiani revealed that around 300 protection and community bunkers would shortly be constructed in highly vulnerable villages of Nakyal, Charhoi and Khuiratta tehsils of Kotli district.
The first instalment of the amount for construction of these civilian bunkers had been released, he said, but added that details in this regard would be shared with the media later.
Poonch's DC Mumtaz also said that as many as 200 bunkers were being built in the first phase in three villages of tehsil Abbaspur and one village of tehsil Hajira in Poonch district.
According to a statement issued by the ISPR on Wednesday, the Indian Army initiated unprovoked fire along LoC in Khuiratta Sector targeting innocent civilians, as a result of which five citizens, including three women, got injured.
Pakistan Army reportedly targeted the Indian posts and responded "effectively".