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October 15, 2001
22:21 IST

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Indian Army shells, destroys 12 Pakistan posts

Our Correspondent

Coinciding with the arrival of United States Secretary of State Colin Powell to Pakistan, and the return of George Fernandes as the defence minister, the Indian Army shelled 12 Pakistani posts, bunkers and fortifications across the Line of Control in the Akhnoor and the Mendhar sectors, destroying them completely on Monday night.

Using heavy weapons like machine guns, artillery guns, mortars and rockets, the Indian troops launched a successful 'punitive' operation against the Pakistani Army, which had used the Mendhar sector to push in militants and weapons, a defence ministry spokesman said.

He said the Indian army inflicted large-scale damage to Pakistani military facilities.

Similar operations were also carried out in the Akhnoor sector, where the Pakistani army had planted explosive devices on the Indian side, which had damaged a number of electricity poles and transformers in recent past.

"We have taken effective punitive action. We have completely destroyed their posts," said Brig P C Das of 16 Corps.

He claimed that 12 militants were killed in the Indian action

Brig Das said Pakistani troops had opened heavy fire along the International Border in Jammu division, killing a civilian at Gharkhal village of Akhnoor sector on Sunday night.

He added that intermittent exchange of fire between Border Security Force personnel and Pakistani border guards was taking place at 30 to 40 border posts in Hiranagar, R S Pura and Samba sectors along the international border since last Sunday evening, he added.

Minister of State for Home Affairs I D Swami speaking to rediff.com said that the incident need not be hyped, as it came on the eve of US Secretary of State Colin Powell's visit to India.

"Such incidents are common on the international border between India and Pakistan. They are more common on the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir. I would not attach much importance to the shelling in the Akhnoor sector," Swami said.

Swami went a step further to point out the threats held out by Osama Bin Laden's Al Qaeda and Jaish-e-Mohammad of Maulana Masood Azhar to step up violence in Kashmir as a justification for the attacks.

"Al Qaeda has asked the Muslims to fight for Kashmir. This clearly shows there is link between the Taleban and the militancy in Kashmir. All the terrorist outfits in Jammu and Kashmir are some way or the other connected to the Taleban," he said.

Attempts to contact the new Defence Minister George Fernandes and his deputy Harin Pathak failed, as the two were reportedly out on urgent meetings.

An army officer talking to Star News said there was an infiltration attempt on Sunday in Akhnoor sector, after which the Indian army got the nod from the government to shell the Pakistani posts.

He said more action is possible in the coming days.

BBC quoting Pakistan military sources added Pakistani rangers and the army retaliated, and shelled Indian posts and bunkers in return

There was no word on casualties from both sides at the time of filing this report.

Meanwhile, United States President George W Bush called on the countries to 'stand down' after the Indian action.

"It is very important that India and Pakistan stand down during our activities in Afghanistan, or for that matter forever," Bush told reporters at the White House.

US Secretary of State speaking to reporters in Islamabad said, "We believe maintenance of the Line of Control, exercise of restraint and the avoidance of provocative acts, which could lead to a conflict of any kind, is very important."

With inputs from agencies

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