Pak targets Poonch town, fires over 6000 shells
31 January 2002
The Daily Excelsior
POONCH: For the first time during over a month long border skirmishes, the Pakistan army this evening targeted Poonch town by firing airburst, artillery and mortar shells. About half a dozen bunkers were damaged on the Indian side while two army jawans were killed and four others were seriously injured and some casualties were also feared. Till tonight, four army soldiers had been hospitalised in the critical condition. Over 6000 artillery, airburst and mortar shells were fired by the enemy troops targeting the civilian locations in the town and peripheries besides the strategic installations for about two and a half hours. People took shelter in the bunkers, already erected by them, while the shopkeepers downed their shutters and fled to the safer areas. Official and Defence sources said the Pakistani guns started barking in the entire Poonch sector at 1630 hours. For the first time, five artillery shells fell in Azad Mohalla in Ward No. 9 of Poonch while seven shells fell near Moti Mahal Brigade of army in Malti area. Four shells landed in Daria Mohalla, and eight shells in Alla Peer. All shells exploded with big bangs but narrowly missed the Defence and civilian locations. Deafening sound of the explosions rattled houses of the people, who were forced to take shelter in the bunkers. During over a month long skirmishes on the Line of Control (LoC) in Poonch sector, the shells hadnít landed in the town even on a single occasion. Panic-stricken people, who had initially went on roof tops to see the shelling, rushed to the bunkers as the shells started landing in the town and its outskirts. However, no civilian casualties were reported in the shelling. Boundary walls in some of the houses developed cracks under impact of the explosions, the sources said. The forward villages in Poonch sector, which were targeted by Pakistan army, were Digwar, Sokar, Ajot, Tasalian, Banwat, Dokri, Jhalas, Kunian, Mangnar, and Ksaba. About half a dozen bunkers were so far reported to be damaged in the shelling. Two army jawans were killed and four others were injured. The injured army jawans had been admitted to a Military Hospital in serious condition, the sources said. Number of casualties and damage could be more, the reliable reports said, adding the exact damage was being ascertained. Defence sources didnít disclose immediately the extent of damage. The shelling stopped around 1900 hours. The shelling was not replied immediately by the Indian side. On Monday, the Indian army had retaliated the Pakistani shelling killing 26 enemy soldiers, smashing 22 bunkers and posts and completely destroying their one ammunition depot and two anti-aircraft guns opposite Poonch sector. Sources said the Indian troops were expected to retaliate the shelling tomorrow or a day after. Panic prevailed in Poonch town with a virtual war like situation during about two and a half hour shelling. People came out of the bunkers by 2000 hoursóan hour after the shelling had completely stopped. According to sources, more than 6000 air burst, mortar and artillery shells were fired by Pakistan army. Air burst shells were fired for the first time. Heavy mortar shelling was also reported from Kallal and Lam villages in Nowshera sector of Rajouri district in the wee hours of this morning. About 60 to 80 mortar shells were fired in the forward villages but there was no report of any casualties or damage, the sources said. Shelling was immediately replied by the Indian side. Shelling in Nowshera sector has also become a routine like Poonch sector. Border skirmishes also resumed in Samba sector of the International Border (IB) this morning. An attempt by Pakistan army to storm Majra post of the Border Security Force (BSF) in Samba sector was beaten-back by the security personnel resulting into the death of two Pakistan army soldiers. Other forward villages on the IB where Indo-Pak troops traded firing included Garkhal, Siderwan, Old and New Kanachak, Chinore Farm, Gole Pattan, Pargwal, Lalyal, Panjur, Chor Gali, Pallanwalla, Pindi, Pital Post, Mehta Post, Kote Kuba, SH Way, Jabowal, Budhwar, Kandral, SM Pur, Fatwal, Suchetgarh, Kullian, Galar, Faqira Chak, Sangral, Mangral, Abdullian, Korotana, Khatmarian, Khurd, Joura Farm, Gharana and AMK in Jammu district. The forward villages of Kathua district, which witnessed the exchange of firing this morning, were Regal, Manju Chak, Sade Chak, Chachwal and Challarian.