Shelling triggers panic in villages along border in J-K
The firing along the de facto India-Pakistan border in Jammu and Kashmir--the Line of Control (LoC)--in Tangdhar sector of Kupwara district on Saturday triggered panic as residents left their homes to take shelter in underground bunkers, residents and police said on Sunday.
A civilian, Mohammad Sidiq, 50, and two army soldiers were killed in the firing that prompted the Indian army to launch an artillery attack in retaliation on Sunday. Army chief General Bipin Rawat said that India mounted the attack on at least four terror camps and Pakistani military positions across the LoC. He added that the firing from the Pakistani side was meant to assist infiltrators and at least six Pakistani soldiers were killed while heavy terrorist casualties were also inflicted in the artillery attack.
Sidiq was a resident of Gundishot in Tanghdar. Ishfaq Ahmad, a local resident, said that shells from across the LoC fell in Gundishot as well as hit an army post in Tanghdar. “One shell fell near the house of Sidiq and led to his death,’’ said Ahmad as he described the panic in the village.
He added that some residents took shelter in underground bunkers while others huddled on the ground floors of their homes. “There was chaos. Men, women, and children were crying. The shrieks could be heard throughout the night. People thought that they would not survive,” he said.
A police officer, who was not authorised to speak to the media, said that three more civilians were injured in the cross-LoC firing. “Two of them are stable. One of the injured civilians is still in the hospital as he has got some serious injuries,” said the officer.
Another police officer said that Pakistani troops fired shells at five to seven places and caused heavy damage to many residential houses. “Seven to eight houses, including a storehouse of grains, have been damaged,” he said on the condition of anonymity. The shells also hit cattle sheds and left some six cows and 10 goats dead.
Another local resident, who did want to be named, said that the shelling was the worst since 2003 when India and Pakistan agreed on a ceasefire along the 744-km long LoC and the 198-km long international border in Jammu and Kashmir. “When there was a massive earthquake in 2005, many underground bunkers were destroyed and people did not feel the need to reconstruct them as there were not many ceasefire violations in this area. There were minor skirmishes earlier. We demand the reconstruction of underground bunkers in the area,” he said.
Tensions along the LoC have escalated since August 5 when the Centre moved to effectively revoke Constitution’s Article 370 that gave Jammu and Kashmir a special status. The state was also split into two Union territories in August.