Virtual war in Poonch as people take to bunkers
5 January 2002
The Daily Excelsior
Poonch: A virtual war broke out in entire Poonch sector during the day today with over 2500 mortar bombs fired by Indo-Pak troops on each otherís territory. One Indian jawan was killed and six others including three soldiers and three civilians were seriously injured and two bunkers were destroyed in Pakistani shelling. But, the loss on enemyís side was much higher. According to intercepts, eight Pakistani soldiers and three civilians were confirmed killed while scores of others were seriously injured. Eight enemy bunkers were completely destroyed. ''It was a virtual war. Entire Poonch town was frequently rattled with the mortar shell explosions. Several shells fell in Betar nullah, well within the limits of Poonch town, where people went into the recently entrenched bunkers'', official sources said. Amidst heavy shelling, Garrison Commander of Poonch Brigade Brig WJB Sturgeon went from one post to another boosting morale of the troops and encouraging them to give a befitting reply to the enemy troops, which they indeed gave. Shelling was resumed by Pakistan army at 0600 hours today after a lull of two days. Shelling started in Gulpur, Khari, Karmara, Digwar, Sokar and Bigial Dara. Pakistan army fired about 1000 heavy mortar shells on Indian positionsóboth defence and civilótill 0930 hours today. An Indian army jawan was killed and three others were seriously injured when their two bunkers were destroyed in the shelling in Khari and Karmara villages, located right on the Line of Control (LoC). Two civilians were also wounded in Khari village. Injured army soldiers and civilians were immediately evacuated from the forward villages and rushed to hospital. Condition of all of them was stated to be critical. Injured civilians have been identified as Tariq Hussain, Khaleel Ahmed and Mohd Lateef, all residents of Bigial Dara. Identity of deceased and injured army soldiers was not disclosed by the Defence authorities. Indian retaliation started at 0930 hours and continued till 1630 hours. More than 1500 mortar shells were fired by the troops in retaliatory action, the sources said. Atleast eight Pakistan army jawans and three civilians were killed in the shelling. Twenty two enemy bunkers were also destroyed. An observation tower of the enemy, which was being used to monitor the activities of Indian side, was completely damaged. A total chaos prevailed in the enemy camp during retaliation by the Indian army. Damaged bunkers and posts of Pakistan were deserted by their soldiers, who managed to survive, in panic. Smoke was seen all over the forward Pakistani posts especially those located opposite Khari, Karmara and Gulpur. Devastation was huge on the enemy side, the sources said. Meanwhile, about 150 families, which were still putting up in the forward villages, were also evacuated by the troops during the shelling this afternoon and shifted to safer areas. In Poonch town, the panic-stricken people and shopkeepers were seen taking shelter in the newly entrenched bunkers. This was for first time that mortar shells fell as close as Betar nullah, just half a kilometers from the town. Exchange of shelling and artillery firing was the fiercest ever today ever since the skirmishes began on the LoC about a fortnight back. ''During past few days, Indo-Pak troops had been exchanging mortar shelling artillery firing but it had never been such a devastating as it was today'', a civil officer said. However, an uneasy calm prevailed in Nowshera sector of Rajouri district today as no shelling was exchanged during the day. Small to medium arms firing continued at some other places on the LoC in Poonch and Rajouri districts. Meanwhile, the reports said that four members of a family crossed over to Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) from the LoC in Galuti village of Mendhar tehsil last night. They included Alla Dutt, his daughter Zamrooda Bi and sons Mohd Afzal and Mohd Iliyas. Two other members of Alla Duttís family including wife Sabza Begum and son Farooq Ahmed didnít migrate to PoK and took shelter in a safer village. Our Jammu correspondent adds: Heavy arms firing continued on the International Border (IB) in Hiranagar, Samba, RS Pura, Kanachak, Akhnoor and Pargwal sub sectors last night. Firing took place at some places even during the day. Army and the Border Security Force (BSF) effectively replied the firing at all places. There were no reports of any casualties or damage on the Indian side during the exchange of firing today. Forward places where Indo-Pak troops traded firing included Suchetgarh, Galar, Faqira Chak, Sangral, Mangral, Korotana, Khurd, Abdullian, Khatmarian, Gharana, Gharani, Kharkhola, Alla Mai Di Kothi (AMK), Chamblayal, Narayanpur, Hasu Chak, Kandral, S M Pura, Pindi, Pital Post, Kot Kuba, Zero Point, Mehta Post, S H War and Budhwar in Jammu district. Forward posts in Kathua district where Indo-Pak troops exchanged firing were Regal, Chalarian, Chachwal, Dulma Chak, Londi, Khawara, Sadhe Chak, Bobiya, Lodwal, Plati, Karol Krishna and Panjgrain.