Three soldiers of the Pakistan Army were martyred in firing by Indian forces from across the Line of Control (LoC), Inter-Services Public Relations Director General Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor said on Thursday.
Two civilians were also killed and another injured in Battal sector of Poonch district due to shelling from across the restive LoC, officials said.
In a tweet from his official account, Maj Gen Ghafoor said that the Pakistan armed forces, in a counter-attack, had killed five Indian soldiers and injured several others while bunkers were also damaged.
"Intermittent exchange of fire continues," he wrote.
He revealed that the Indian army had increased firing along the LoC as part of "efforts to divert attention from [the] precarious situation in Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir".
The Pakistani soldiers who lost their lives include Naik Tanveer, Lance Naik Taimoor and Sepoy Ramzan.
The firing offensive from Indian forces came on Aug 15, India's independence day. Pakistan observed the day as Black Day in order to protest against the ongoing Indian atrocities, blatant human rights violations and imposition of curfew in occupied Kashmir. The protest by Pakistan followed New Delhi's decision to scrap Article 370 of the Indian constitution, stripping occupied Kashmir of its special autonomy.
In Battal sector, Indian troops started shelling at about 5am, using machine guns and mortars.
Ilyas Ahmed, a police officer deployed in the area, told Dawn that the shelling subsided at about midday but resumed with full intensity at about 2pm. “It was ruthless [...] they pounded the entire area with mortar shells,” he said.
He said that some of the villagers who came out of their homes and other safer places assuming that the shelling would not resume were caught off guard.
According to him, Muneebur Rehman, 45, and Mohammad Aziz, 40, lost their lives in Battal and Natar villages, respectively. Qari Muhammad Naqeeb, 60, was injured in Battal village, he added.
The heavily militarised LoC has been witnessing frequent human and material losses in India's violations of the 16-year-old truce agreement, particularly after February when an Indian paramilitary convoy was attacked in Pulwama area of occupied Kashmir.
According to civilian and military officials, the latest ceasefire violations in the two sectors pushed the civilian death toll in the current year to 31, including 21 men and 10 women – and that of the military to 14.
Saeed Qureshi, a director at the State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA), told Dawn that another 159 civilians, including 91 men and 68 women, have sustained injuries in the ongoing year.
He said some 36 houses and six shops were damaged completely and 239 houses, five cattle sheds, two schools, one health facility, one mosque and five vehicles were damaged partially.
Villagers also lost at least 49 cattle head in Indian shelling in the current year, he added.
Indian envoy summoned
The Foreign Office (FO) summoned Indian Deputy High Commissioner Gaurav Ahluwalia to protest today's "unprovoked ceasefire violations" by Indian border forces along the LoC which resulted in the deaths of the three Pakistan Army soldiers in Lipa and Battal sectors.
"The Indian occupation forces along the LoC and Working Boundary have continuously been violating the 2003 ceasefire arrangement, which needs to be respected," an FO statement said, adding that the ceasefire violations by India are a threat to regional peace and security and "may lead to a strategic miscalculation".
According to the press release, FO Director General (South Asia and Saarc) Dr Muhammad Faisal urged the Indian side to instruct its forces to respect the ceasefire in letter and spirit and maintain peace on the LoC and the Working Boundary.
He also urged the Indian side to allow the United Nations Military Observers Group for India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) to play its mandated role as per United Nations Security Council resolutions.
With additional reporting by Naveed Siddiqui in Islamabad.