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15 civilians killed, 20 injured as Pak shells Kargil town

Mukhtar Ahmed in Srinagar

At least 15 civilians were killed and 20 injured on Tuesday when Pakistani troops rained shells on Kargil town in Ladakh sector, Kashmir.

A defence spokesman said troops from across the border opened heavy, unprovoked artillery fire at around 1330 hours. The first shell found the under-construction airport. Close on its heels came more, rocking the whole town and setting off an exodus of the locals towards the Suru valley.

The shells hit the town's bus station and a mosque. A few also fell near the general hospital. In all, army sources estimate, over a hundred hit the town.

"It started suddenly, without warning. There were over a dozen explosions," a local told Rediff On The NeT over the telephone. "I saved myself by hiding in the basement."

Besides the town, Pak troops also targeted village Kakshar and the Srinagar-Kargil national highway. "Our troops have retaliated and heavy firing is continuing," army sources said.

This is the second time that Pakistan is targeting Kargil this year. On April 9, they had hit the town with shells to kill 13 civilians.

Pakistani firing had been continuing along the Kargil Line of Control all through this month. Indian troops had responded on two occasions -- on September 23 and 24 -- destroying 35 bunkers. The number of casualties is not known.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah has condemned the action. "By targeting Kargil, Pakistan is unabashedly pursuing its nefarious designs to kill the innocents of the state," he said. "These heinous acts clearly expose Pakistan's insincerity in normalising relations with India."

Top army officers had recently warned that the Pakistani army was waiting in the wings to infiltrate a large number of hardcore militants into the state through Kargil sector.

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