Pakistani mortars kill 3 civilians on LoC

Pakistani mortars kill 3 civilians on LoC

16 October 2012
The Daily Excelsior
Fayaz Bukhari

Srinagar: Pakistani mortar firing killed three civilians in North Kashmir's Hajipeer sector leading to escalation of tension in the area that has been going on after Army started renovating the forward posts in the area early this month. This is for the first time that civilians have been killed in the LoC firing since India and Pakistan signed a ceasefire agreement in 2003, ending almost 14 years of border and LoC firing that killed large number of civilians on both the sides and led to migration of thousands of people. General Officer Commanding (GOC) of Baramulla based 19-Division of Army, Major General Bipin Rawat, told Excelsior that at around 1030 a.m. Pakistani troops from across the LoC fired around 7-8 rounds of mortars that fell in Churanda village hardly 100 meters from the LoC in Haji Peer sector of North Kashmir. He said that firing stopped at around 1230 p. m. and since then there is calm in the area but tension prevailed. The General said that one of the shells fired by Pakistani troops fell on a residential house leading to the death of three civilians - Mohammad Liaquat son of Nazir Ahmad, 15, Mohammad Shafiq son of Iman Bin, 32 and Shaheena daughter of Ismael, 20. According to reports, Army was renovating the bunkers and forward posts in the area that might have provoked the fortnight long Pakistani troop firing. The Pakistani troops are hardly 100 meters away from the village and surround it from three sides. The GOC said that Pakistani troops have been firing on the Indian forward posts since October 3 almost daily. 'But last night the firing intensified and the firing continued throughout the night', he said adding that in the morning Army retaliated. He said that at around 1030 a.m. Pakistani troops fired 7-8 rounds of 82 MM mortars causing causalities in the village. According to reports reaching here from the LoC village, Pakistani troops at around 830 a.m. made announcements through the mega phones asking Army to stop the work on the bunkers. This was followed by firing and at around 1030 a.m. they restored to heavy weapon firing. The reports said that after the killing of civilians, the villagers of Churanda made announcements from the mega phones of two Masjids appealing the Pakistan troops to stop firing. 'The firing stopped at around noon and villagers brought out the bodies and buried them as the tension prevailed in the village', the reports added. The villagers who had fled to a nearby village returned in the afternoon to bury the dead soon after the firing stopped. The others who were inside the village despite heavy firing were hiding inside their homes due to fear of continued firing that was going on since last night. They also came out and took part in the burial of three villagers. The reports reaching here said that uneasy calm prevailed in the border village. The GOC said that Army's renovation of the bunkers and forward posts along the LoC is a routine affair before the onset winter to make them snow resistant. He ruled out this as a provocation and said that recently a battalion along Charunda village on Pakistan side has taken over and held that new battalion responsible for unprovoked firing. Major General Rawat said that besides this, the aim of the unprovoked firing in the sector is to infiltrate militants. He said that they have reports of presence of few groups of militants on the other side of the LoC ready to infiltrate. 'Since Charunda villagers don't allow any such designs of the Pakistani troops to succeed and that is the reason for targeting the civilians', he added. The General said that the firing was targeted as Pakistani troops can't miss the target since they can see the houses and people of the village through the naked eye. He said the Army and villagers enjoy healthy relationship, particularly after Army reconstructed the village and made it model village after it was destroyed in 2005 earthquake, which prevents infiltration through this area. The GOC said that Army has thrice lodged protests over the issue of the unprovoked firing with their Pakistani counterparts in the Uri sector since October 4 but there is no response. He said the issue of mortar firing leading to death of the civilians was taken up with the Pakistani counterparts today as well.