Indian troops resorted to what officials described as “carpet bombing” of several civilian populated areas of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) from across the restive Line of Control (LoC) on Tuesday, killing two civilians and leaving at least 19 others wounded, including six women and a police constable.
Akhtar Ayub, a disaster management officer based in district headquarters Athmuqam, said that Nauman, 25, son of Matiullah and Bisma Bibi, 17, daughter of Ghulam Murtaza, were killed in Sharda and Katha Chogalli villages, in the upper and lower belts of Neelum valley, respectively.
The shelling first began in Leepa valley, located some 100 kilometres southeast of in Jhelum valley district, at about 12 noon, with Indian troops targeting Batlian and Bijildhaar villages.
Later they expanded the range to the entire valley, targeting the civilian population with mortar guns and rocket launchers, said Waleed Anwar, assistant commissioner of the area.
“In fact it was carpet bombing of the civilian populated areas, he said, adding, Pakistani troops had responded “befittingly.”
Earlier in the day, a statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) stated that a man was killed and nine others, including women and children, were injured due to "unprovoked firing of mortars and artillery guns" by Indian forces along the Line of Control.
The Indian troops "deliberately targeted civilian population in Danna, Dhddnial (sic), Jura, Lipa, Sharda and Shahkot sectors," read the statement.
"[There are] reports of three Indian soldiers dead, many injured, besides damage to Indian posts," the statement by the military's media wing had added.
Tuesday’s indiscriminate shelling has pushed the civilian death toll in the current year to 24, including 14 men and 10 women, while another 133 civilians, including 78 males and 55 females, have sustained injuries.
Station House Officer (SHO) of Punjgran, Syed Wajahat Kazmi, said it was the heaviest shelling in this area in almost a decade.
“For 40 minutes, bombs rained down without pause, causing a scare among the villagers as no one knew where the next shell will strike” said Kazmi.
He said that according to preliminary reports received, several houses were completely or partially damaged by the shelling.
A day earlier, officials had reported that a woman lost her life and another five women and two men were wounded in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) in unrelenting and unprovoked ceasefire violations by Indian troops from across the LoC.
The casualties occurred in Khurshidabad and Nezapir sectors of Haveli district on Sunday evening, but the information was officially shared with the media on Monday.
Casualties from ceasefire violations in 2019
Saeed Qureshi, a senior director at State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA), after Monday's reported incident had said that the civilian death toll in the current year has increased to 22, including 13 men and nine women.
Of them, he said, nine have been killed in the Kotli district, six in Haveli district, three in Bhimber district, two in Jhelum Valley district and one each in Neelum Valley and Poonch districts.
About 11 army personnel have also been martyred along the LoC in the ongoing year, Qureshi added.
Around 114 people, including 65 men and 49 women, have been injured, he said. About 36 of the victims hailed from Kotli district, 27 from Poonch district, 24 from Haveli district, 19 from Bhimber district, seven from Jhelum Valley district and one from Neelum Valley district.
Qureshi said that around 18 houses and four shops have been destroyed and 220 houses, one mosque, two schools and five vehicles have been partially damaged.
Villagers have also lost at least 26 cattle heads due to shelling by the Indian forces in the ongoing year, he added.
Tensions have been running high between India and Pakistan in the wake of a suicide attack on an Indian military convoy in Pulwama district of Indian-occupied Kashmir on February 14, which killed more than 40 paramilitary troops.
In what was the most serious military crisis in South Asia since 2008, Indian and Pakistani warplanes engaged in a dogfight on Feb 27, a day after a raid by Indian jet fighters on what New Delhi said was a militant camp in Pakistan. Islamabad denied any militant camp exists in the area and said the Indian bombs exploded on an empty hillside.
Pakistan downed an Indian plane for violating its airspace and captured its pilot after he ejected in AJK.
The tensions de-escalated after Prime Minister Imran Khan decided to release the Indian pilot as a peace gesture, and following concerted diplomatic efforts by countries including the United States, China and the UAE.
Nevertheless, ceasefire violations along the de-factor border have been occurring regularly.