29th August 1997
Defence Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav today said that if Pakistani troops continued firing along the line of control, Indian troops would give a befitting reply to them.
Talking to mediapersons here before leaving for Delhi, Mr Yadav denied that the latest skirmishes between the armed forces of the two countries showed an escalation of tension between India and Pakistan. He pointed out that such exchanges of fire between the troops of the two countries on the line of actual control was nothing new to worry about.
He said the Indian troops were fully prepared to repulse any attack on its borders with Pakistan.
In reply to a question, the Defence Minister said that the exchange of fire on the Kashmir border would not disrupt the Indian efforts to normalise relations with Pakistan.
ARUN JOSHI REPORTS FROM URI:
Eighty Pakistani soldiers were killed in the counter-offensive launched by the Indian troops following unprovoked heavy fire from the Pak side in the past four days. The guns continued to boom in this sector spread over 100 km along the line of control (LoC).
Brig. Jasbir Lidder, Army Commander, told 'The Hindustan Times' that as per "our assessment at least 60 to 70 Pakistani soldiers have been killed in the offensive. The casualty figure may be high. This is the modest estimate." He also disclosed that at least 35 Pakistani soldiers were injured in Gowaba post. "This we have come to know by wireless intercepts", the Brigadier said.
In Srinagar, Brig. Ashok Kapoor, Brigadier General Staff of 15 Corps monitoring the situation on LoC, told this correspondent that barring Uri, guns had almost fallen silent in other sectors in Kashmir. "There is no significant firing in Keran, Tangdhar nor in Kargil". However, Brig. Kapoor said that heavy exchange of fire was going on at Siachen Glacier. One jawan was killed and another injured in the firing from across the border, he said.
Indian troops have established their supremacy in this sector where Pakistani troops are positioned on strategically advantageous ridges and mountain tops overlooking the Indian pickets and bunkers. It has been possible because "we fire for effect", Brig Lidder said.
This reporter saw Indian soldiers maintaining their positions and responding to Pakistani fire which was quite intense in the morning. It gained further intensity in the afternoon when Pakistani troops started targeting some of the Indian posts with heavy gunfire rattling hills in the Pir Panjul range of Himalayas on both sides of the LoC. The intensity of the fire could be judged from the fact that one new post created on a vacant piece of land on the banks of river Jhelum, 74 mortar shells were fired in response to Pakistani shelling which came after every two seconds, in two and a half hours.
There have been at least three civilian casualties in the fresh spurt of firing from Pakistan. Two of the civilians were killed in Charunda village. Jannu Begum, a 70-year-old from Jabla village has come to Uri to seek help for her grandchildren who have been orphaned. Her two sons Rashid Shah and Bashir Shah were killed in mortar shelling by Pakistani troops. "I don't know how to feed these two of my grandchildren Shabir, and Showkat, eight and 10 years old, respectively". Gulabjan of the same village is sore because a shell has completely destroyed her house. Her two cows also perished in the explosion.
This is the story common to almost all the villages in this sector which come under fire from across at odd hours. "This is the most intense firing that I have seen in the past 26 years", says Ali Akbar Abbasi, who runs a shop near Lal Pul on Uri-Muzzafarbad road. Mr Abbasi has seen firing along the LoC since his childhood. "We are born and brought up this atmosphere".
Brig Jasbir who described how the Indian troops have been able to offset the advantage that Pakistan had because of her higher positions in the mountains.
The Government tonight sought to play down the exchange of heavy firing on the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir, even as a senior army officer confirmed that Pakistan had suffered at least 70 casualties in retaliatory firing by Indian troops in Uri sector.
Chief of Army Staff Shankar Roychowdhury, in his briefing to the Cabinet Committee on Security Affairs late this afternoon, reportedly said that the latest firing incidents along the LoC were of a serious nature, but there was not enough cause for anxiety. The Prime Minister, Defence and Home Ministers were present along with the Cabinet, Defence and Principal secretaries.
"These things are happening on the border and they are happening every year," said an official spokesman in response to a query about the Pakistani firing issue figuring at the Union Cabinet meeting. Defence Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav, had earlier denied to a press meet in Lucknow, that villages along the border were being evacuated in view of the brewing tension and that there was a war-like situation. But for the record, Mulayam added that India would give a "befitting reply if its unity and integrity was threatened."
Despite the Army and Government's attempts to maintain diplomatic equilibrium, security, nevertheless, has been beefed up along the entire LoC in Jammu and Kashmir. The situation was being monitored carefully as it was apprehended that Pakistan might try to do some mischief again and sneak some Kashmiri militants into the state by providing them cover fire.
And even as the Defence Minister gave out his statements, intermittent firing continued between Indian and Pakistani troops in Keran and Uri sectors of the Kashmir valley.
Brigadier Jasbir Lidder, commander of Uri brigade, confirmed to reporters in Srinagar that near the Line of Control in Uri sector at least 70 Pakistani armymen, including some officers, were killed or wounded and dozens of bunkers and heavy weapons destroyed in retaliatory firing by Indian troops.
One major and one non-commissioned officer (NCO) on the Indian side were killed while on patrol duty as a result of a direct hit by a 120 mm shell.Yesterday's was the second major incident involving exchange of fire during the current year in which heavy to medium machine guns were used. In April this year Pakistani troops had resorted to firing in Kargil sector of Ladakh region which had sparked off large scale migration from several towns after Pakistani shells hit civilian areas.
In fact, there has not been a single day along the LoC when India and Pakistan have not rained ordnance on each other's posts. Firing is a matter of routine there, probably the only chapter of life on the LoC which has any regularity. The firing is controlled only by the solemnity of the occasions, with Indian days of celebrations attracting heavy fire from the Pakistani posts, and as is customary from their side they open up their weapons whenever there is something to commemorate.
It was the same in this latest round with the Pakistan Army raising the ante way back on August 14. There was an earlier increase over the routine, on August 4, but soon returned to the normal levels. And normal in this part of the world is anything upto medium machine guns on the Indian, and upto heavy machine guns on the Pakistani side.
When it is time for the abnormal, then the battalion support weapons like 82 mm and 120 mm mortars to come out. The extraordinary is of course artillery systems, which happen but rarely, like the firing on Kargil in April last.Following no ridge lines or watershed boundaries, the LoC is a tactical, logistical and operational nightmare. Formed purely by the mutual recognition of actual ground position lines when the late Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru called a halt to the Army's expulsion of the Pakistan Army and its raiders. Commencing from the Akhnur sector the LoC winds its way using no logic of terrain or direction until it ends in the world's highest battlefield, the Siachen Glacier.
Since 1949 there have been only minor changes to the contours of the LoC, with India ceding some land in the Akhnur side and retaining some in the Kargil sector. After the Tashkent talks of 1966 India did give up the Haji Pir Pass having reclaimed it at the cost of the lives of a lot of its soldiers.
A tenure on the LoC for an infantry battalion is as arduous as it is risky. With the eruption of an insurgency in the Kashmir valley posts along the LoC have been moved to the forward locations, and at places are not more than 100 metres from the Pakistani ones. And considerable changes in life on the LoC. The increase in firing has led to a number of new constructions, both in terms of fortification of bunkers as well as communication and supply channels.
A network of tunnels has now come up to ensure the availability of food, fuel and ammunition to the posts. Troops now have to innovate both in terms of timing as well as method to obtain their supplies. A bucket of water can cost a life, for a Pakistani sniper is always on sentry duty.
The Kashmir insurgency has placed additional demands with a constant watch having to be maintained on movement of militants. An increase in local recruitment as has happened in the valley, even of the 14-15 year age group, is the likely cause of the latest escalation. The Pakistani Army had to get them across the LoC, which they could only by pinning down Indian posts, hence the heavier firing.
Pak firing a diversionary tactic, says Cong
Strongly condemning the Pakistan firing on the Indo-Pak Kashmir border, the Congress today said the Centre must take it up with Pakistan at the highest level.
"We condemn Pakistan for its unprovoked act of firing at the Indo-Pak border in Kashmir in which several soldiers are reported to have died and many others injured.
"We strongly condemn this act which reflects the helplessness of the Pakistani authorities in handling the situation in their country. Pakistan is on the brink of an economic disaster and its law and order situation is out of control. The firing is a diversionary tactic to take the attention of the people of Pakistan away from their problems," party assistant spokesperson Ajit Jogi said today.
A red alert was sounded today all along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir and reserve troops of the Army and the Border Security Force were rushed to vulnerable and strategic areas, a spokesman of the Northern Command said here this evening.
Top officials said here that Pakistan-trained militants and foreign mercenaries had stepped up their activities both on the LoC and the international border.
The Governor, Gen.(retd.) K.V. Krishna Rao, has begun an extensive tour of these areas to make an on-the-spot assessment of the situation. On the first day of his visit today, he visited Rajouri district.
According to Maj. Gen. S.S. Chahal, General Officer Commanding of the 25 Infantry Division posted in the Rajouri area, Pakistan had launched the third phase of "Operation ToPac" under which it was pushing foreign mercenaries of the Hizb-Ul-Mujahideen, Harket-Ul-Ansar and Lashkar- e-Tolba across the border.
The Union Home Ministry is inclined to take a cautious view of the firing by the Pakistani forces from across the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir. The inclination is to see the firing as part of a set pattern.
According to some of the officials dealing with Jammu and Kashmir affairs, the firing is to be seen as part of a familiar modus operandi of infiltration of trained terrorists from Pakistan. Because of the extra vigil mounted by the Army so far, it was not possible for infiltration to take place in the regular manner.
Over the years the Pakistani Army had taken to resorting to firing for two or three days, creating a sufficiently large distraction for the Indian Army and then taking advantage of the situation to infiltrate armed and trained "freedom fighters" into Jammu and Kashmir.
The firing in the last few days is therefore not much of a surprise to Home Ministry officials, given the fact that there is not much time left for the Pakistani Army to undertake the infiltration. By October the weather turns unfavourable; hence the last week's provocative exercise. By the same logic, it is possible that over the next few weeks the Pakistani Army could indulge in one or two rounds of provocative firing across the Line of Control.
The Home Ministry officials also see the firing as part of the Pakistani Army-ISI combine's attempt to sabotage any attempt on the part of the political leadership in the two countries to start a dialogue. Last week's firing is seen as linked to the next round of the Foreign Secretary level talks.
But the Home Ministry is inclined to believe that the real motive for firing by the Pakistani Army has to be to provide cover for infiltrators to sneak into Jammu and Kashmir.
In the ministry's view the Pakistani establishment has reason to be worried over the situation in the Valley where the pro- Pakistan sentiment is fast dissipating and even the All Party Hurriyat Conference leadership finds it difficult to crank up pro-Pakistan demonstrations.
Meanwhile, official sources have also denied reports that there was any move to withdraw the Disturbed Areas Act and the Jammu and Kashmir Armed Forces Special Powers Act from Jammu and Kashmir.
There has not even been any preliminary discussion about withdrawing the two laws. "There is no thinking, it is not possible in the present situation," observed one official.
The Cabinet Committee on Security, headed by the Prime Minister and including the Home Minister, the Defence Minister, the Chief of Army Staff along with top Defence and External Affairs Ministry officials met today to discuss the latest round of cross-border firing by Pakistan. This meeting is said to have taken place soon after the Cabinet met in the evening.
The meeting is understood to have taken note of a variety of scenarios which may have triggered the firing by the Pakistani army. The possible Pakistani motives include the "tension" between the civil and the military authorities in Islamabad, the need to infiltrate militants in Kashmir, the coming U.N. General Assembly session in which Pakistani authorities want the Kashmir issue to remain in the international limelight and the heartburn caused in Pakistan on account of the greater prominence India received internationally on completing 50 years of independence.
Sources said India and Pakistani officials here had not established contact since the recent spurt of cross-border firing. Besides, there have been no "flag meetings" between local military commanders across the LoC so far, the sources confirmed, but added the Army was ready to hold such a dialogue, if directed to do so by the Government.
Highly placed defence sources said effective retaliation by Indian troops against the "unprovoked" firing may have led to the drop in shooting by Pakistan across the border in the last 24 hours.
There has been a perceptible drop in shooting since last night. "The situation is still unpredictable but firing in the last 24 hours has become localised", the sources observed. Unlike late last week which saw firing all along the Line of Control, the shooting last night was confined to the Keran and Uri sectors alone. According to an official spokesman of the Defence Ministry, "intermittent firing in the Keran and Uri sector, however, continued today".
According to sources, the Army's "befitting response" was among the key factors which may have prodded Pakistan into adopting a less aggressive posture. "We have not been mute spectators and fired in thin air. Whenever we have fired, we have done so for punishment", the sources said. "Our troops responded adequately and heavy damage was inflicted on the other side", the defence spokesman said.
Defence sources have reiterated the Pakistani firing was not driven to fulfill a clear military objective, though the desire to infiltrate militants is likely to be one of the aims. For instance, Pakistani firing was not targeting the Army's logistical lines and therefore had not affected stockpiling of material for the coming winter. "The firing has in no way affected the routes used for winter stocking by the Army", authoritative sources said.
URI SECTOR (North Kashmir)
By Shujaat Bukhari
There was no let-up today in skirmishes between Indian and Pakistani troops that started on August 15. A group of mediapersons today witnessed the fighting which Army officers said was more intense than the earlier clashes. Both sides used heavy artillery and Indian troops managed to destroy a Pakistani air defence gun, with which its troops had attacked Army vehicles.
Brigadier Jasbir Lidder, controlling the sector, said his men had destroyed 30 Pakistani bunkers and trenches inflicting around 70 casualties on the enemy. Brig. Lidder said the firing was continuing unabated on all fronts. He said, "We are busy giving a befitting reply to them". He lauded the sacrifice of Major Depinder Singh Buchar and the jawan, Shamsher Singh. They exhibited unprecedented courage and fought with full dedication, he added.
As the mediapersons reached Lal Pul, the strategic post just two kilometres from the Line of Control (LoC), Pakistani troops started firing with heavy artillery. The Indian Artillery Regiment retaliated using mortars. This started yet another exchange that had stopped for half an hour due to rain. It was around 1:45 p.m.
Captain Ramesh, manning one of the posts, said he had fired 76 shells till 11 a.m. The Army personnel said that "firing from our side will not stop until Pakistan stops it, because they have initiated it".
Brig. Lidder said the Pakistani firing was an act of desperation. "As they saw us celebrating the 50th anniversary of Independence in the Kashmir Valley peacefully, they started unjustified firing on August 15, which continued for the next four days. They targeted our civilian areas but we observed maximum restraint. But when they used heavy artillery we gave a befitting reply on August 23. The Pakistani troops fire indiscriminately and most of their shells land in civilian areas."
Three civilians died in the Pakistani shelling on Jabala village yesterday. Colleagues of the slain Major said he exhibited qualities of tactical leadership when he moved along the crawl trench up to his Badal post to reply to the Pakistani shelling. "He destroyed the Pakistani post and died when three shells hit him", they added.
Uri is a bowl located on the traditional Srinagar-Muzzafarabad route. It has been a major battlefield in all the three wars fought with Pakistan. It now forms the strategic gateway into the Valley. In October 1947, Pakistan attempted to annex Jammu and Kashmir by force, by pushing across tribesmen through Muzzafarabad-Uri.
Meanwhile, firing in the Kupwara sector too continued throughout the day. Brig. Ashok Kapur of the 15 Corps Headquarters said there were no reports of casualties from there. The Siachen and Kargil sectors were relatively calm, he added.
The United States has asked both India and Pakistan to stop the fighting across the Kashmir border and has urged them to press ahead with the dialogue to resolve the issue.
A State Department official told Dawn on Monday the US had no independent account of the casualties on both sides of the border but the embassies in Islamabad and New Delhi were closely monitoring the situation.
"We are unable to determine what has happened as numerous incidents happen on that border, but the volatility of the situation emphasises the pressing need for the two countries to continue their talks," the official said.
There is no independent confirmation of casualties on the two sides, but Pakistan confirmed three deaths and Indians said six persons including an army Major, had been killed on their side.
"Three Indian soldiers, including a Major and a junior commissioned officer (JCO), were killed in heavy exchange of fire along the Line of Control on Saturday night. The Indian casualties also included three civilians," an Indian spokesman said.
"The Indian firing resulted in the death of three civilians and injuries to another three," a Pakistan spokesman said in Islamabad.
According to the Indian Army authorities, the firing intensified on Saturday night after Pakistani troops used heavy artillery in the Uri sector, killing the two Indian army men.
The General Officer Commanding of the Srinagar-based 15 Corps, Lt. Gen. Krishan Pal, while confirming the incidents, said the slain Major had been identified as Dipendar Singh.
Indian and Pakistani troops exchanged fire in several sectors for three consecutive days along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir until Sunday, reports said.
The Indian side was reported to have rushed its Home Secretary, Mr. K. Padmanabhiah, to Srinagar on Sunday to take stock of the situation in the valley. He visited the BSF headquarters in Srinagar immediately on arrival.
A defence spokesmen in Srinagar said the exchange of fire was continuing in the Uri, Kupwara, Tangdhar, Kargil, Rajouri, Poonch, Jammu and Siachen sectors.
Indian defence sources in Srinagar were later reported saying that in the night Pakistani troops had intensified firing in Tangdhar and Keran areas of Kupwara sector while there was some respite in Uri sector.
A number of Pakistani posts including Dhalwan, Marol, Brachil, Nadim, Karim, Chesma and Olithing-Thang had suffered extensive damage, the Indians claimed. These posts formed part of the Pakistan brigade located at Skardu and Mini-Marg, opposite the Kargil sector.
About the situation along the borders in the Rajouri, Poonch and Jammu sectors, the Indian spokesman said there was intermittent exchange of light arms fire at some places along the LoC and the international border.
According to Indian Press reports the Army authorities late on Sunday evening confirmed that the exchange of fire had intensified in the Lipa Valley and the Keran and Tangahar areas of the Kupwara sector.
The authorities said the situation was grim and firing was reported in the Uri sector where it started on independence day.
The Indian authorities denied having any information about the exact number of casualties on the Pakistani side, but said the losses could be very high.
By K. K. Katyal
The escalated military activity along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir is seen here as the handiwork of the Pakistani agencies, interested in keeping the "core issue" alive, but the theory that it had the approval or sanction of the top political leadership in Islamabad is discounted. India will keep this distinction in mind in its response to the latest situation - the security forces would deal with provocations from the other side resolutely, as had been the case so far, but at the political level, nothing would be done to put the bilateral dialogue in jeopardy. On the contrary, all-out efforts are intended to be made to protect this process from negative influences. The Cabinet Committee on Security met this evening to take stock of the situation.
The intensity of firing, exchanged in the last two days, has now subsided but this will be a small consolation unless credible steps are taken to ensure against fierce eruptions. This imparts an urgency to "peace and security, including confidence-building measures" one of the eight subjects, that were identified, at the last round of talks between the Foreign Secretaries in Islamabad, some two months ago. The working group on this subject, as on Kashmir, is to be headed by the Foreign Secretaries themselves. In the past, the two sides had agreed on a set of CBMs, which, unfortunately, had not been implemented with the necessary seriousness.
To cite one instance, the two Directors-General of Military Operations do maintain a hotline but this is used only once a week - on Tuesdays. This, obviously, is an unsatisfactory arrangement and could be remedied without much difficulty. Even this limited use had not been effective. Some time back, the Indian DGMO drew the attention of his Pakistani counterpart to the tension that had been building up in some areas and suggested effective remedial steps. The Pakistani official was, however, dismissive - obviously because normality along the LoC did not suit his country's intelligence outfits, like the ISI.
The CBMs have helped in maintaining peace and tranquility in the India-China border areas even though the problem between the two countries remains unresolved. Pakistan does not accept the parallel between that situation and Kashmir, maintaining that the "core issue" does not involve territorial claims but is about the principle of self-determination. That, certainly, is not India's view. This divergence notwithstanding, there should be no hesitation on the part of Pakistan to agree to do's and don'ts, for maintaining peace along the Kashmir LoC. As for the immediate problem, the hotline conversation, scheduled for tomorrow, could be used to evolve steps to defuse tension and put an end to the current exchange of fire. The suggestion made some weeks ago by the Indian DGMO to terminate cross-border firing could be the basis for further discussions.
The LoC becomes live every year in August, as the Pakistani side seeks to push into the valley as large a number of infiltrators as possible, as part of set plans to keep up the high level of militancy during the winter months, when fresh influx is not possible. But this August witnessed an unusual escalation, covering a wider area than ever before. This, obviously, is the result of well-designed moves by those elements in Pakistan which are out to scuttle the process of dialogue and to give a new urgency to the "dispute" so as to attract the attention of the international community.
New Delhi does not minimise the gravity of the present situation and will send clear signals about the vigilance and preparedness of the armed forces. At the same time, it is treated as a phenomenon confined to the LoC, and not an index of any adverse change in the attitude of the political leadership in Pakistan. As such, India will play down theories emphasising its political overtones - and go ahead with preparations for the next round of Foreign Secretary-level talks, scheduled for September.
A spokesman for the ministry of defence has contradicted reports of heavy causalities on the Pakistan side by Indian troops' firing in Kargal and Uri sectors along the Line of Control.
"No unusual activity has taken place in the said areas," the spokesman said when asked to comment on Indian reports that over 60 civilians and troops were killed in firing from across the border along the Line of Control. An Indian Army brigadier claimed in Jammu on Monday that around 70 Pakistani soldiers died in weekend artillery clashes with Indian troops on Kashmir border. The defence ministry spokesman, however, said that Indian Army had resorted to unprovoked firing on Saturday morning in the Pando, Sankh and Chakhoti sub-sectors and used artillery and heavy weapons, as a result, three civilians were killed and as many were seriously injured. Two women were killed and six others injured due to unprovoked firing by Indian side in different areas along the LoC in Muzaffarabad on Monday.
Commenting on the unprovoked firing by the Indian army which continued unabated for 24 hours and claims of heavy causalities on Pakistan side in Kargil and Uri sectors, the spokesman said: "It is known Indian pattern of sabotaging the process of dialogue whenever initiated to ease tension between the two countries."
"It also betrays India's gimmick to smoke-screen the fresh phase of operation against Kashmiri mujahedeen (freedom fighters) for the right to self-determination," the spokesman said.
Meanwhile, Pakistan has officially lodged a complaint with United Nations Military Observers Group in India and Pakistan about Saturday's unprovoked firing by Indian troops in different sub-sectors along the Line of Control.
INDIAN CLAIM: On Sunday, India accused Pakistan of killing two soldiers in heavy shelling in Kashmir. "Such unprovoked firing from the Pakistani side has been going on for some time and has caused large damage for our civilians as well", reports AFP.
Indian Army Brigadier Jasbir Leddar claiming that 70 Pakistani soldiers died in clashes with Indian troops over the weekend told an AFP correspondent that the deaths had occurred in the Uri area.
Leddar, speaking during a conducted media tour of the area on the Line of Control dividing the Indian and Pakistani zones, said Indian troops had responded after a Major was killed by Pakistani fire on Saturday.
"Initially we observed maximum restraint ... but when there were casualties on our side we had to shoot back," he said.
"We destroyed 30 to 35 bunkers and they contain around five to seven soldiers each. "We are observing everything. We estimate around two people died in each bunker. We saw bodies and the wounded being removed in ambulances."
Earlier, Indian defence ministry sources said two of its soldiers and three civilians had died while putting Pakistani casualties at 51.
An AFP correspondent in occupied Jammu was shown artillery shells which were said to have been fired from the Pakistani lines, around 1,500 metres away. A 115mm gun fired seven shells during the media tour.
Pakistani bunkers could be seen clearly through binoculars. One was clearly damaged.
Brigadier Leddar added a Pakistani wireless message had been intercepted which mentioned 35 wounded since Saturday. Villagers from Uri said on Monday there had been artillery and machinegun fire from both sides since Saturday. There were no signs of major damage in the area, however. Uri resident Mohammad Hussain, 65, said he had received a head wound last week before the main artillery firing began. "At midnight there was a big blast outside the house and when I came out there was a second blast and I was injured." Meanwhile, according to Indian authorities, Indian and Pakistani troops exchanged artillery fire along the Line of Control for the fifth consecutive day on Monday. Troops fired mortar bombs and rockets at each other in Uri and Kupwara districts. But there were no reports of casualties. Our Correspondent from Muzaffarabad adds:Two women were killed and six people suffered injuries due to unprovoked Indian firing from across the Line of Control on Sunday and Monday, officials and witnesses said. Indian troops shelled at Khilana Khurd village in Chakothi sector on Monday killing one women identified as Chunni Begum. A man identified as Sharbat Khan was also injured on Monday in the same sector.
Sources and witnesses said the Indian troops resorted to heavy fire in Joora sector in Neelum Valley on Sunday injuring one woman and three men. The woman succumbed to her injuries on way to hospital while two other victims Raj
Mohammad, 80, and Shabbir, 25, were admitted to CMH, Muzaffarabad. The third injured was provided medical cover in MDS, Joora, 64 kms northeast of here in Neelum Valley.
Another woman Rehmat Jan wife of Hidayatullah suffered severe injuries while she was herding cattle outside her home in Leepa Valley, southeast of here, on Sunday afternoon. She was admitted to MDS Leepa in critical condition. A government vehicle of Public Works Department (PWD) (AJKC 7307) was also partially damaged in the same area due to Indian firing.
A young girl Ambreen, 13, was critically injured, also in Khilana area in Chakothi sector, on Sunday evening. Doctors said that the splinters of the mortar shell ripped through her abdomen breaking some of her ribs.Indian troops had responded after a Major was killed by Pakistani fire on Saturday. Ends
Army Commander and his deputy in Uri sector had a miraculous escape when Pakistan gunfire hit their vehicle near Chakori on the Uri-Muzzafarabad road yesterday evening. Pakistan targeted the army jonga in which Brig. Jasbir Singh Lidder and Col.D. C. Katech were travelling. The gunfire did not hurt the Army officers..
A media team comprising Akhilesh Sharma, a reporter with Hindi BBC TV and two cameraman of ANI Yogesh and Bilak were also in the same vehicle. "It was a providential escape for all of us", Akhilesh Sharma told The Hindustan Times.
The Indian troops retaliated to the gunfire and destroyed two of Pakistani bunkers from where the gunfire originated, defence sources quoting their own reports from the frontier, said.
The exchange of fire lasted for about two hours and the whole area rattled with gunfire during this period. While there was no casualty on the Indian side, Defence sources said Pakistan suffered few casualties.
Defence sources based here said that there was no other major report of border skirmishes form any other sector along the Line of Control. Continuous rains have reduced the visibility and that has also had an effect on the intermittent firing along LoC.
For the 7th consecutive day today Indian and Pakistani troops traded small arms fire across the line of actual control even though officials here said the situation was well under control.
"It's quiet on the line of actual control", Ashok Kapoor, a senior Indian army official was quoted as saying in Srinagar by a news agency.
"Except for some intermittent exchange of fire of small arms, there is nothing alarming. We are vigilant", he added.
Firing started on both sides of the 720-km line of actual control Seven days ago. Indian official said during the first five days, two soldiers and three civilians were killed on the Indian side of the line, while 60 to 70 Pakistanis were believed dead or wounded.
Pakistan said four civilians had died on its side. Officials in Islamabad dismissed Indian reports of dozens of Pakistani deaths.
India and Pakistan have fought two of three wars since independence in 1947 over Kashmir.
Senior diplomats from the two countries are scheduled to meet in mid-September in New Delhi for a third round of peace talks that began in March.
Meanwhile Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Kamla Sinha was quoted as saying that peace talks between the two arch rivals scheduled to be held in September in New Delhi, will go ahead despite the unrest.
She was quoted as saying "there are constraints but we have to work despite these constraints".
It is quiet on all sectors along the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir for the past two days, defence sources quoting reports from the frontiers told The Hindustan Times.
"There has not been a single incident of firing in the past 48 hours in any of the sectors," sources added. "Once the guns fell silent from across, there was no question of our retaliation. We do not believe in harassing fire," the sources said.
Uri, Kargil, Tangdhar and Keran sectors had witnessed heavy fire early this week, which resulted in four civilian casualties and also left an officer and a jawan killed in the Indian side. The retaliatory fire by the Indian troops caused heavy casualties across the border, the sources said. This claim was disputed by Pakistan.
Reports from the Northern Command headquarters in Udhampur suggested that there was no incident of firing in any of the sectors in Jammu region in the past two days. The intermittent fire that had started in Rajouri and Poonch districts which borders Pakistan has also ceased and there was an absolute quiet on the line of Control (LoC).
Defence sources once again maintained today that the fire from across was meant to facilitate infiltrators from across. The reports of infiltrators having made it to Kupwara under the cover of gunfire by Pakistan have proved our claim correct, the sources said.
Infiltration bids have been made in other sectors too. There are reports of militants having infiltrated in Rajouri and Poonch, sources said.
Meanwhile, two army jawans ad six foreign militants were among 22 persons killed in various militancy-related incidents in the Valley even as militants gunned down an Awami League leader in Doda district who had unsuccessfully contested the Assembly elections last year.
Seven persons were killed in Shopian in a series of killings of surrendered militants and pro-Pakistan militants. The shootout created widespread scare in South Kashmir, which is observing a strike today against the fresh spurt of violence in the area.
Two army soldiers were killed in Kupwara when militants ambushed them. The return fire left one of the attackers dead.