A man was killed and four others wounded in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) on Sunday after guns again started roaring at the restive Line of Control (LoC) after a three-day lull, officials said.
The casualties occurred in Pandu, Chakothi and Khilana sectors of Jhelum Valley district after these areas were indiscriminately targeted by Indian troops with mortar guns and artillery “without any provocation” from 11am onwards, said Deputy Commissioner Imran Shaheen.
Earlier, he said, there had been small arms fire since 1am.
A civilian, identified as Ghulam Hassan Shah, was killed in Maira Bakot village of Pandu sector during heavy shelling, Shaheen said.
Residents said the deceased belonged to Bari Imam (Islamabad) and had come to Maira Bakot village two days ago to see his daughter who was married and living there.
Of the injured persons, Shaheen said that Raja Mehmood Younas was hit in Dharrang village, Zakir and Ghulam Muhammad were hit in Maira Bakot village and Zahida Taufeeq in Khilana village.
In Maira Bakot village, three houses were badly damaged, he said, adding that a private vehicle and an ambulance were also slightly damaged.
Residents said they were caught off guard by the unexpected shelling after a three-day lull almost all along the LoC.
According to them, almost all displaced families had returned from the rear areas to their homes in the vulnerable villages, presuming de-escalation would last longer.
However, their hopes were shattered by Sunday’s shelling.
Shaheen said more than 150 families had again moved out of the vulnerable villages by Sunday evening and of them, 52 families comprising 273 individuals, had been rehabilitated by the administration.
Ali Raza Kazmi, one of the displaced people, said his family was among many in Pahal village of Pandu sector which had moved to Hattian Bala and Muzaffarabad on February 27 due to mounting tensions at the LoC.
“Just yesterday all of them had returned to their homes but today the situation has once again worsened […] I am worried about their safety as Indian troops are not showing any signs of mercy,” he told Dawn in Muzaffarabad, where he had stayed back to buy some household goods.
Shaheen said shelling had largely stopped by the evening.
Jhelum Valley elementary board chairman Qazi Abdul Jalil announced that 8th-grade exams, scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, were being cancelled for an “indefinite period” at six centres in Pandu and Chakothi sectors. However, he said the exams at all other centres would be held as per schedule.
Casualties at the LoC were last reported from Bhimber district when two civilians were injured on March 6.
The heavily militarised LoC that splits the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir between Pakistan and India had been very tense after Indian jets intruded into the Pakistani airspace on February 26 and jettisoned their payload in Balakot. A day later, the Pakistan Air Force shot down two Indian jets.
Since then, six civilians have been killed and around 40 others wounded in Indian shelling in different areas of AJK.