11 civilians, 3 jawans killed in heavy shelling; 32 seriously hurt
29 May 2002
The Daily Excelsior
POONCH: In one of the worst incidents of shelling which virtually converted the ongoing skirmishes along the Line of Control (LoC) into a full- fledged war, Pakistan army today again targeted Poonch town and Poonch Garrison killing 14 persons including 11 civilians and three army jawans and wounding 32 others, many of them seriously. Two localities in the town suffered huge devastation in the shelling and artillery firing. Death toll could go up as condition of several injured was stated to be critical. This was the first time ever when such a heavy number of casualties were suffered by Indian side in about 40 minutes continuous shelling by Pakistan army during last five months when skirmishes on the LoC intensified in the wake of December 13 attack on Parliament. ''Entire Poonch town was rattled with mortar explosions and artillery firing at 1830 hours today. It looked the entire town had been converted into a war zone with people and shopkeeper finding no time to hide themselves in the bunkers as shells rained one after the other'', official sources said. List of dead & injured Of 14 dead, only three had been identified till late tonight. They were Havildar Kali Dass, Sheela Devi wife of Purshotam Lal R-o Ward No. 9 and Mohd Yunus son of Qutab Din R-o Ward No. 1. Identity of other dead was yet to be ascertained. Injured : Mohd Iqbal, a police constable No. 608, Rajesh Kumar S-o Dev Raj R-o Ward No. 9, Jaswinder Singh S-o Parminder Singh R-o Ward No. 9, Rajesh Kumar S-o Om Parkash R-o Ward No. 9, Jatinder Singh S-o Surjit Singh R-o Ward No. 7, Fallawar Bandey D-o Ashraf Bandey R-o Ward No. 7, Ajay Kumar S-o Keshav Ram R-o Ward No. 3, Afsar Hameed, a constable No. 875, Ajit Kumar S-o Vijay Kumar R-o Ward No. 9, Deepak Kumar S-o Shambu Nath R-o Ward No. 8, Tanveer Kumar S-o Deepak Kumar R-o Ward No. 8, Shahzahan D-o Nazir R-o Ward No. 7, Tarsem Lal S-o Keshav Ram R-o Ward No. 1, Gurmeet Singh S-o Subedar Lakhbir Singh R-o Ward No. 4, Keshu Sharma S-o Deepak Kumar R-o Ward No. 7, Jaswinder Singh S-o Harbans Singh R-o Ward No. 9, Gagandeep Kour D-o Harjinder Singh R-o Ward No. 9, Jaswinder Singh S-o Harinder Singh R-o Ward No. 3, Shaheen Akhter S-o Ahmed Din R-o Ward No. 3, Majeeda Bi D-o Khadim Hussain R-o Dalan, Shahnawaz Akhter S-o Mohd Saleem R-o Dalan, Sarfaraz Ali S-o Sheela Mir R-o Dalan, Parveen Akhter D-o Ali Haider R-o Dalan, Zubaida Bi D-o Khadim Hussain R-o Dalan and Yaseen S-o Suleman R-o Dalan. Shankar Nagar, Bus Stand, Jarnail Mohalla, Purani Poonch, Suthram Babli, Alla Peer, Kamsar and Malti localities suffered extensive damage in the shelling. In addition to Poonch Garrison, two shells also fell near All India Radio (AIR) station building. Poonch town is located four kilometers from the LoC and striking it clearly indicated that Pakistan army had used artillery firing and other heavy fire arms besides mortar shells, they said, adding there was no locality in the town which was not hit by the mortar shells. Though last evening also Pakistan army had targeted Poonch town but today’s shelling was more aggressive and directly targeted the civilian as well as defence locations. For the first time also, three mortar shells fell inside Poonch Garrison, the Brigade Headquarters of army but failed to cause any damage, the sources said. Reports available till tonight confirmed 11 civilians and three army casualties and put the number of injured at 32. Twentyfour injured were admitted in the district hospital alone. Sources said seven civilians were killed and several others were injured in one of the heaviest mortar shelling in Malti. Of dead, four were children aged between six to 12. Since intermittent shelling was still going on in Malti, bodies of the civilians hadn’t been evacuated from their houses so far. Injured in the village were, however, shifted to the hospital late tonight by army and police. Three army soldiers including Havildar Kali Dass were killed when two shells hit an army vehicle at Poonch Stand. The vehicle was blown into piece killing all three army personnel, travelling in it, on spot. Several civil vehicles, parked in the Bus Stand, were extensively damaged in the shelling, the sources said. Bus operators and the people, standing in the Bus Stand, ran helter skelter for safety but many of them got injured after being hit by splinters of the mortar explosions. Ward No. 1, 3 and 9 also bore brunt of the shelling with several houses devastated. Many other houses suffered damage. Army and police swung into action as the shelling stopped after about 40 minutes. Local people also joined the rescue operation in large number. Victims were evacuated from their houses and other places and shifted to the district hospital. Dead and injured army jawans were, however, taken to the Military Hospital. Situation was stated to be very tense in entire Poonch town and surroundings. Already, all forward villages in Poonch had been vacated by the villagers due to heavy Pak shelling. The migrants had shifted to Poonch town presuming it as a safer area but that too was heavily shelled over last two days. Meanwhile, Indian troops had retaliated last night’s shelling from across the LoC early today killing nine enemy soldiers including a Major and wounding 19 others and damaging Pakistan’s plenty of bunkers. Garrison Commander of Poonch Brigade WJB Sturgeon visited the town and villages, hit by shelling and medium gun firing, this afternoon to boost morale of the people, who had been braving mortar shelling and heavy arms firing for last five months now. Defence sources here said Indian retaliation started around 0100 hours and continued till 0230 hours. The one and a half hour long retaliatory shelling by the troops caused telling damage on Pakistan side, they added. Pakistan army’s Neza Peer post opposite Shahpur village was completely destroyed in shelling. Alongwith Neza Peer post, seven bunkers of the enemy troops also perished. Atleast six Pakistani soldiers were killed and 19 others were seriously injured in shelling opposite Shahpur, the sources said. Three more enemy soldiers including Major Iqbal and Havildar Showkat Ali were killed in their Satwal post opposite Digwar sub sector. Satwal post caught fire after being hit by two mortar shells and was reduced to a rubble. Major Iqbal and two other Pakistani soldiers didn’t get any chance to come out of their post and were burnt alive, the sources said. ''Plenty of bunkers of Pakistan army were damaged when Indian army opened faces of their guns early today opposite Khari, Karmara, Ajot and Sarhuti villages'', they said, adding ‘several soldiers of Pakistan army were seen deserting their bunkers and posts and rushing back to escape wrath of Indian troops’ shelling’. ''Such a heavy retaliation had become necessary after Pakistan army last night targeted Poonch town including Bus Stand, a private Academy and several other important installations'', the sources said. Reports today said that 10 army mules were killed in Pak shelling at Shankar Nagar in Poonch town last night. Two concrete houses were also damaged while a girl was injured. The girl has been hospitalised. However, no casualties were reported in shelling.