At least three civilians died and eight others were injured in Azad Jammu and Kashmir after Indian troops resorted to “indiscriminate” shelling from across the Line of Control (LoC) on Tuesday, officials said.
All casualties occurred in different villages of Neza Pir sector of Haveli district, “where shelling began at about 12:30pm and lasted for four-and-a-half hours without any pause”, said Muhammad Zaheer, a disaster management officer at the office of Haveli deputy commissioner.
“They used mortars as well as medium artillery, targeting civilian populations in Kairni, Rakh Chikhri, Chanjal Bala, Moohri and Mandhaar villages. The shelling was intense and indiscriminate,” he added.
Khalid Mahmood Kiani, a police official based in district headquarters Forward Kahuta, told Dawn that shells hit several houses.
In one house in Kairni Mohri village, shelling caused the death of three people and injuries to another two, he said.
The deceased were identified as Ghulam Muhammad, 54, his 12-year-old daughter Maryam Bibi, and 10-year-old Haider Ali.
Ghulam Muhammad’s wife Rehmat Jan and another family member, Muhammad Manzoor, were injured, the official said.
In the same village, Naseeb Jan, 33, and her 4-year-old son Sarfraz were also injured.
Elsewhere, Amna, 22, and Safeena Bibi, 20, sustained injuries in Mandhaar village and Naseeb Jan, 21, and Farri Bibi, 18, were injured in Kairni Wasti village.
All the injured were shifted to a military-run health facility in Forward Kahuta for treatment.
In the neighbouring Poonch district, a girls higher secondary school was twice targeted by the Indian army with small arms in Tetrinote village of tehsil Hajira but there were no losses, a police official said.
“They resorted to burst firing first at 10am and then again at 12 noon. However, soon after the first attack, the school was shut and students and teachers were sent home,” the official added.
In a statement, AJK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider strongly condemned today's Indian shelling targeting civilian populations.
“I express my heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families and pay tributes to the people living along the ceasefire line (LoC) for their exemplary courage and bravery,” he said.
The prime minister asked the civil administration in all areas along the LoC to remain on high alert “as the wicked and cruel enemy could resort to any misadventure out of frustration”.
The heavily militarised LoC which splits the disputed region of Kashmir between India and Pakistan has been constantly witnessing ceasefire violations by the Indian army in a serious breach of a November 2003 truce agreement.
According to Syed Shahid Mohyiddin Qadri, secretary civil defence and state disaster management authority, the latest ceasefire violations have pushed the civilian death toll in the current year to 47.
Apart from them, another 236 civilians sustained injuries in the ongoing year, he said.
Qadri said some 50 houses had also been destroyed and 369 houses and nine shops partially damaged due to Indian shelling.
Aside from the above, 11 cattle sheds, four schools, two health facilities, one mosque and 12 vehicles also suffered partial damages.