MUZAFFARABAD: A teenage boy lost his life in the Leepa Valley of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) after Indian troops resorted to heavy shelling on Wednesday, officials said.
Haroon, the 18-year-old son of Rasheed, fell victim to unprovoked shelling in Bijildhar village of the Leepa Valley.
Imran Shaheen, deputy commissioner of Hattian Bala, told Dawn that the shelling began at about 4pm and continued till late evening.
“Due to darkness and poor telecommunication links with the mountainous area we are unable to ascertain immediately the complete information of losses,” he said.
“Once the shelling stops or at least subsides, we may receive exact detail of losses,” he added.
Shaukat Javed Mir, a PPP leader belonging to the Leepa Valley, said that shelling was intense, causing panic in the area.
“Those who have bunkers or trenches within or alongside their houses have taken shelter there due to which we are unable to establish contact with anyone there,” he said.
According to Mir, there was also shelling for more than an hour in the morning, “but from post to post” on opposite sides.
Since a similar exchange of fire between rival troops had also taken place on the night of Oct 26, the civilian population was caught off-guard when Indian troops started pounding it with mortar shells in the afternoon, he said.
Wednesday’s shelling took place a day after the northeastern Neelum Valley received two mortar shells and small arms fire from across the LoC.
On Tuesday afternoon, Indian troops had first fired a smoke bomb followed by two mortar shells in district headquarters Athmuqam, triggering a wave of panic among residents who had not heard noise of guns after July 16, 2017, when a Pakistan Army vehicle was targeted by the Indian troops resulting in the martyrdom of four soldiers.
According to local police, Indian troops had also resorted to small arms fire in Rawta and Shingaan villages of the Neelum Valley on Tuesday, but there were no casualties.
The 200km-long Neelum Valley — a famous and frequently visited tourist destination — had long faced the brunt of heavy cross-border shelling between the rival troops until a ceasefire agreement in Nov 2003 brought the much sought-after relief to its inhabitants.
Ever since, while the truce agreement saw numerous violations elsewhere, the Neelum Valley had remained an exception.
The privilege, however, ended late in 2016, when initially a famous tourist rest house near Athmuqam was shelled by the Indian troops on Oct 29, followed by shelling on a passenger coach on Nov 23 that left more than 10 persons dead and many wounded.
But except for these three incidents, the LoC in the Neelum Valley remained completely calm and quiet, paving the way for influx of thousands of tourists from across the country, all year round.
Published in Dawn, November 1st, 2018