Pakistani troops targeted border villages in Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch district with mortar bombs on Sunday, killing five members of a family including three minor brothers, officials said.
The “unprovoked and indiscriminate” shelling of civilian areas almost three-four kilometres from the Line of Control by the Pakistani troops, in violation of a ceasefire agreement, lasted nearly four hours on Sunday morning, they said.
Two sisters were critically injured in the shelling and were airlifted to Jammu for treatment.
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti expressed anguish over the loss of lives and stressed the need for peace “if we want to save the people of the state”.
Army Public Relations Officer Lt Col Devender Anand said the mortar shelling from across the LoC was “unprovoked and indiscriminate” and lasted from 0745 hours to 1130 hours. Indian troops guarding the border retaliated strongly and effectively, he added.
Director General of Police S P Vaid in a tweet said, “Due to shelling from across LoC in Balakote sector of Poonch, 5 civilians of a family died & 2 are injured who are being shifted to hospital.”
The civilian casualties occurred in forward village of Devta Sargloon when a shell hit the mud house of Choudhary Mohammad Ramzan (35), a police official said.
The deceased were Ramzan, his wife Malika bi, 32, their sons -- Abdul Rehman,14, Mohammad Rizwan,12, and Razaq Ramzan, 7.
Ramzan’s two daughters -- Nasreen Kouser, 11, and Mahreen Kouser, 5, -- were critically injured in the incident and were airlifted to Jammu for specialised treatment, the police official said.
“Anguished to hear of 5 people losing their lives in the crossfire along the LoC in the Balakote sector of Poonch. My deepest condolences to their family,” the chief minister said in a tweet.
“Peace is the only way forward. Initiatives were started by (former Prime Minister A B) Vajpayee Ji with his Lahore bus journey & were later carried on in the same spirit by PM @narendramodi (Prime Minister Narendra Modi). Sadly they were sabotaged at Pathankot. We need to get on the right track if we want to save the people of J&K,” she said in another tweet, referring to the scene of the 2016 terror attack on an Air Force Station in Punjab.
The Army PRO said Sunday’s ceasefire violation by Pakistan was a serious issue of concern as civilian localities much deep inside Indian territory, almost three-four kilometre from the LoC, were targeted despite the fact that there was no army deployment or any installation or even no equipment installed.
Lt Col Anand said Pakistani troops used small arms, 81 mm and 120mm mortar shells.
“Pakistan continues in its cowardly design of targeting innocent civilians, their homes and livestock in villages close to the LoC. The deliberate provocation has resulted in loss of five precious and innocent civilian lives,” the army PRO said.
Inspector General of Police, Jammu, S D S Jamwal said the civil administration was “alive to the situation” and appropriate precautionary actions would be taken to ensure safety of civilians.
“The firing has stopped and the local administration has reached the area. We have rushed bullet proof vehicles to the affected villages,” he told reporters on the sidelines of a function here.
Image only for representation. Photograph: PTI Photo