MUZAFFARABAD: A young boy and a woman were killed and another woman was injured in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) on Sunday amid ‘unprovoked’ shelling by Indian troops from across the restive Line of Control (LoC).

Officials said the casualties occurred in Maal Gujran and Sehra villages in Khuiratta and Hajira sub-divisions of Kotli and Poonch districts, respectively, where Indian troops resorted to shelling from 10am onwards.

In Hajira village of Battal sector, Indian troops started shelling at about 10:45am without any provocation, catching the residents off guard, said Javed Iqbal, a police official based at the local police post.

A mortar shell exploded in the courtyard of a house, killing a woman on the spot and critically injuring her daughter-in-law, he said, adding that continued shelling had kept people of the area indoors.

Pooch District Disaster Management Officer (DDMO) Rubia Kanwal identified the victims as 45-year-old Nasreen Begum, wife of Chaudhry Wazir Hussain, and 24-year-old Sonia Nadeem.

Shariq Talat, the DDMO of the neighbouring Kotli district, told Dawn that a 12-year old boy, Mohammad Shahid, son of Mohammad Shabbir, lost his life in Maal Gujran village, two kilometres off the LoC in Anderla Kotehra sector.

“The victim and his grandmother were looking after their goats along a small water body close to their house when shrapnel from a mortar shell pierced his back,” Mr Talat said, adding that the grade-III student died on way to a health facility.

Elsewhere in the same district, Goi and Tatta Pani sectors were also being hit by Indian troops with “heavy weapons”, Mr Talat said, but added that no losses were reported from there.

Confirming the casualties in ‘unprovoked’ Indian firing, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said Pakistan Army troops effectively responded and targeted those posts of Indian army which had initiated firing. “The firing continues intermittently,” it added.

Meanwhile, AJK President Sardar Masood Khan and Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider have condemned Indian shelling, saying they were upset at the loss of lives of innocent civilians.

“I strongly denounce the brazen ceasefire violations by Indian occupation forces across the LoC leading to the martyrdom of a young boy and a woman. India continues its attempts to intimidate local populace by targeting unarmed innocent civilians,” the president said in a tweet.

Mr Haider said targeting unarmed and innocent civilians along the LoC reflected the height of cowardliness on the part of the army and the government of India.

“The Indian government is gravely mistaken in believing that such dastardly acts can force Kashmiris to change their stance on India’s illegal occupation of their motherland,” he tweeted.

The AJK premier called upon the international community to take stock of the situation and play its due role in addressing the root cause of tensions between India and Pakistan.

Though the heavily-militarised LoC has witnessed frequent ceasefire violations for a long time now, tensions have skyrocketed after an attack on an Indian army convoy in Pulwama district of India-occupied Kashmir in February.

According to AJK officials, the latest casualties have pushed the death toll in ceasefire violations by Indian Army this year to 16, including six women, while the number of injured civilians has gone up to 82, including 33 women.

Published in Dawn, May 6th, 2019

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