At least two persons were killed and one young boy was wounded in two sectors of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) in “unprovoked” Indian firing on Sunday, officials said.
The deaths occurred in Battal sector in Poonch district while the boy was wounded in Abbaspur sector of the same district which has been facing cross Line of Control (LoC) shelling for the past several days.
“Today the shelling began at 6:30pm and continued for two hours without any pause. However, it is intermittent at the moment,” a police official based in Battal told Dawn at 10pm, but declined to be identified.
He said one of the shells landed close to the venue of the wedding of one, Muhammad Aqeel, son of Muhammad Siddique Bhatti in Darra Sher Khan village.
Splinters of a shell pierced the groom’s 60-year-old uncle, Hassan Din aka Balochi, who had come all the way from Dadyal tehsil of Mirpur district to attend the ceremony.
Apart from him, 63-year-old Lal Din, son of Muhammad Din, a resident of Darra Sher Khan village, was also hit by the splinters.
Both died on the spot, the official said.
In Abbaspur sector of Poonch district, Saddam Noor, a seven-year-old boy, was critically injured after an Indian sniper hit him in the head from across the nearby LoC.
The boy was rushed to CMH Rawalakot in critical condition, an official said.
“Heavy firing is going on and its thunder is making all the residents restless,” said local journalist Saira Yousuf Chughtai at 10:40pm
Dr Umer Azam, the deputy commissioner of Kotli, told Dawn that Tatta Pani sector in his jurisdiction had been shelled from across the divide until 8:30pm.
Tatta Pani is adjacent to Battal sector of Poonch district.
“Fortunately, no human loss has been reported from within Kotli district,” he said, adding, some cattle were killed and houses partially damaged in Indian shelling.
Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), the media affairs wing of Pakistan army, said Indian forces had lobbed "mortars and anti tank guided missiles" at the civilian population “without any provocation,” killing two civilians.
It said that Pakistan army had “befittingly” retaliated to Indian shelling and there were reports of the killing of at least two Indian soldiers, besides injury to many.
The incident comes two days after a soldier of the Pakistan Army — Sepoy Muhammad Sheraz — was martyred in firing by Indian forces in the Battal sector along the LoC.
A day prior to the soldier's martyrdom, three Army soldiers — Naik Tanveer, Lance Naik Taimoor and Sepoy Ramzan — and two civilians were martyred in two sectors of AJK as Indian troops resorted to heavy shelling from across the restive LoC. A civilian was also injured.
The ISPR chief, in a tweet on Thursday, said 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".
Condemning the shelling at civilian populations, AJK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider also said it was a failed attempt to divert the world's attention from the situation within the Indian-occupied territory, which had been on lockdown for the past two weeks.
“In some of my meetings with some Congressmen and state representatives, I found them deeply concerned over the situation in occupied Kashmir. They want an end to this situation [in IOK] through a peaceful settlement of the festering issue, something which India is unable to digest and that’s why it has been flaring up tensions along the LoC,” he said, in a statement from USA, where he is on a weeklong official tour to hold some meetings.
According to Syed Shahid Mohyiddin Qadri, secretary State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA), the latest civilian casualties had pushed the death toll along the LoC in the ongoing year to 33 – 23 of them men and 10 women – while another 163 civilians, 95 of them men and 68 women, had sustained injuries in the ongoing year.
At least 15 army personnel have also been martyred along the LoC in 2019 in Indian shelling.
Giving details of material losses, officials said that around 36 houses and six shops were damaged completely and 242 houses, five cattle sheds, two schools, one health facility, one mosque, and five vehicles were damaged partially in AJK in the current year due to shelling by Indian forces.
Villagers had also lost at least 55 cattle head in enemy shelling in the current year, they added.