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May 24, 1999
Pakistan intensifies shelling of Kargil, Drass
Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar
The situation in Kargil and Drass worsened this afternoon with heavy Pakistani shelling that killed one civilian while an army helicopter had a miraculous escape while flying over the nearly deserted town.
Police sources in Srinagar told Rediff On The NeT that the Pakistanis rained scores of shells on Kargil and Drass after a brief lull this morning.
The shelling, which began at 1300 IST, was the most intense since the Pakistani attacks on the town resumed two weeks ago.
One shell hit a house at Baru in Kargil at 1600 IST, killing a civilian identified as Liaquat who was standing outside. Two others were reportedly wounded.
"It was the heaviest shelling in the past two weeks. We have taken shelter in an underground bunker. The whole town is deserted and only a handful of residents are left here," said a resident reached by telephone from Srinagar.
An army helicopter hovering over Kargil had a narrow escape when a shell whizzed past. The chopper fitted with a machine-gun later landed safely.
Drass on the Srinagar-Kargil highway was the worst affected by today's bombardment. Pakistani troops shelled the sleepy, picturesque town through the afternoon.
The shelling has hit the movement of vehicles on the highway. A defence source in Srinagar said the highway has been opened to traffic. But the state government has decided to allow civilian traffic on the road only from the second week of June.
The police sources said the airport at Khabutham in Kargil was also hit by the Pakistanis, with several shells landing in and around it late this afternoon.
The defence source said the army returned the fire. The army has also encircled nearly 400 terrorists, mostly Afghans, who infiltrated through the Line of Control in the Batalik and Drass sectors.
The Kargil resident said the few citizens who continue to live in the town and the others who have shifted to Sanku are facing an acute shortage of essentials, including food grain. "We have a limited stock now and don't know when supplies will reach Kargil," he said.
Meanwhile, General Ved Prakash Malik, chief of the army staff, visited Srinagar yesterday for an assessment of the situation in the border areas.
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