JAMMU: In a new flareup in border tensions, Pakistani troops today resorted to heavy firing and mortar shelling at Indian posts and civilian areas killing five civilians including a sarpanch in multiple ceasefire violations along the LoC in Poonch district.
An Army official said the Indian troops retaliated strongly, as the exchange of heavy gunfire continued intermittently in the night after Pakistan continued to violate ceasefire for the seventh consecutive day in Jammu region with at least four violations reported in four sectors in Poonch, about 200 km from here. A senior police official said five civilians were also injured while unofficial reports put the number at 22.
The offensive on Indian positions in Jammu region came as the country celebrated the 69th Independence Day and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif sent his greetings to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying promoting friendly ties between the two neighbours was in mutual interest. The National Security Advisors(NSA) of the two countries are also due to meet in New Delhi on August 23.
Three civilians died when the car in which they were travelling was hit by a mortar shell fired by Pakistani troops in Balakote sector and exploded, a senior police officer said. The dead were identified by police as Karamat Hussain, who is sarpanch of Basoni, Abdul Rahman, a government teacher, and Mohd. Sheeraz, a 17-year-old boy.
A large crowd which had assembled at the spot also came under Pakistani fire and at least five civilians were injured, the officer said. The injured were airlifted to the Government Medical College hospital here and one of them, who was identified as Mohd. Amin, succumbed to his injuries.
A nine-year-old boy identified as Moin Khan was killed during the Pakistani firing in Hamirpur sector, police said. There have been 36 violations of the 2003 ceasefire accord in August till this evening and this is the seventh consecutive day that Pakistani troops have shelled Indian posts along the Line of Control(LoC) in Jammu region, an Army official said.
PRO, Defence Lt Col Manish Mehta said, "Pakistani troops resorted to firing of 60 mm and 82 mm mortar shells on forward posts and civilian areas along LoC in Mandi, Hamirpur and Saujiyan sectors of Poonch from 1820 hours last evening to 0730 today".
While Pakistani troops resorted to mortar shelling of 60 mm mortars shells and firing from 1820 hours last evening to 2350 hours in Hamirpur sector, they also fired in Mand and Saujiyan sectors from midnight to 0300 hours and again from 0730 hours, he said. There was also firing by Pakistani troops on Indian positions along the LoC in Balakote sector from 1130 hours and it is going on, a police officer said.
Lt Col Mehta said troops guarding the borderline retaliated, resulting in exchanges, which are going on. Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah condemned the shelling by Pakistani forces. "I condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the shelling along LoC Poonch that resulted in the deaths & injuries," he tweeted.