Pak Army Fires Mortars, Rockets; Targets Civil Areas Along LoC

13 June 2014
The Daily Excelsior
Sanjeev Pargal

Jammu: Pakistan Army today resorted to heavy shelling and firing on the Line of Control (LoC) in Balakote and Mendhar sectors of Poonch district reminding the people of dark days of August and September last year when several civilians were injured and their houses damaged in shelling from across the LoC. Several mortar shells fired by the Pakistani troops fell in the houses triggering panic among the villagers, some of whom had to take shelter in the bunkers and other safer locations. Pakistan Army suffered at least two fatal casualties and damage of half a dozen bunkers at Pakistani village of Nakyal opposite Tarkundi in Balakote in retaliatory firing by the troops, official sources told the Excelsior. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah voiced concern over the ceasefire violations by the Pakistan Army and called for maintaining ceasefire agreement of India and Pakistan. Describing ceasefire violations by Pakistan as 'matter of concern', Omar told reporters here after a function in Jammu University that there had been ceasefire violations by Pakistan Army, which resorted to heavy firing and shelling this morning. Some of the shells landed in the houses of the people, he said. To a question as to whether Pakistan Army was trying to test the resolve of new Indian Government or the firing was related to first visit of new Defence Minister Arun Jaitley to the Kashmir Valley beginning tomorrow, Omar quipped: 'this is a matter of speculation'. However, he said, the ceasefire agreement should be maintained on the LoC for peace. Questioning timing of ceasefire violations on the LoC, which came a day ahead of Jaitley's first visit to Kashmir after taking over as the Defence Minister, Omar asked: 'is it a coincidence that the Defence Minister is visiting J&K, for his first visit, to review security situation tomorrow'? He said that the ceasefire violations in Rajouri and Poonch areas were significant as some of the shells had landed in civilian areas. 'Significant ceasefire violations have taken place in Rajouri and Poonch with reports of some shells having landed in civilians areas. Some livestock perished,' he said. 'To what extent this is an effort to test the resolve of this new Government - to what extent this is time primarily because the Defence Minister is visiting J&K tomorrow and is also visiting some forward areas - that will be a matter of speculation,' Omar said. 'On my side, I can only appeal that calm be maintained along LoC,' he said. The Chief Minister said, 'This ceasefire is one of the biggest Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) that has been given to the people of J&K by both the Governments of India and Pakistan. We will appeal that this ceasefire is maintained.' Maintaining that ceasefire has been a continuous affair, Omar said, 'Ceasefire violations, unfortunately, are not new phenomenon. They have regularly occurred along the International Border (IB), more so, along the Line of Control (LoC)'. Sources said Pakistan Army started firing on entire LoC from Mendhar to Tarkundi at 8.30 am using mortar shells, Under Barrel Grenade Launchers (UBGLs), rockets, small and heavy arms targeting forward villages of Langiot, Basooni, Gohlad and Balakote in Mendhar tehsil triggering panic among the people. Entire Bhimber Gali sector comprising Mendhar, Balakote, Hamirpur and Gambhir was activated by the Pakistan Army from 8.30 am to 12 noon today shattering virtual peace prevailing on the LoC, excepting few infiltration attempts, since September last year. While firing and shelling in Mendhar sector stopped at 10 am, it continued in Hamirpur and Gambhir sectors till 12 noon. The people, who had started shifting towards their fields were taken aback by sudden spurt of shelling, which they had not witnessed after September 2013 and started rushing back towards their houses. Some of the people took shelter in the bunkers, constructed within the premises of their houses while others ran towards safer locations. Several shells fell in the houses of the people at Langiot, Basooni, Gohlad, Rahalian, Parole and Balakote causing damage to them and killing or injuring their cattle. The shells fell in the houses of Nazir Hussain, Sarpanch of Langiot, Mohammad Sajjad at Basooni, Mohammad Azeem at Gohlad and Mohammad Sadiq at Balakote. Walls of the house of Sadiq were damaged while one cattle of Sarpanch Nazir Hussain was killed. Cattle in some other houses, where the mortar shells and rockets fell, were also injured, sources said, adding there were, however, no Army or civilian casualties or injuries on Indian side today in Pakistan Army's firing or shelling today. There were reports that at least two Pakistan Army jawans were killed in retaliatory firing by the Indian troops and at least six bunkers were damaged in Nakyal area opposite Tarkundi sector of Mendhar. Pakistani ambulances were seen in Nakyal carrying dead Army jawans. There was no official confirmation of casualties of the Pakistan Army. Sources said Indian troops replied Pakistan Army's firing effectively to silence their guns and prevent further damage to civilian areas on the Indian side. Firing and shelling from Pakistan side stopped only after the Indian troops retaliated. Yesterday, an Indian Army soldier was killed and three others were injured in a targeted IED blast, which was triggered with a remote control from Pakistan side at Tarkundi in Mendhar sector of Poonch district. Later, Army Major KK Bhatia and four other jawans were injured in a mine blast while sanitizing the area in the same sector. Sources said at about 10 pm last night, a group of militants had also tried to infiltrate inside the Indian territory from Langiot but the alert troops spotted the intrusion bid well in time and thwarted the plot. The militants were forced to retreat due to alertness and effective firing by the troops. Sarpanch Nazir Hussain told the reporters at Langiot after the firing came to a halt that such a heavy shelling by the Pakistan Army was witnessed for the first time since August-September 2013 hostilities between Indo-Pak troops. He said mortar shells and rockets landed in several houses including his own killing his buffalo. He said some cattle were injured while couple of houses were damaged in the shelling. Another civilian, Sajjad Hussain hoped that this would be last spell of the shelling or otherwise, they would have to shift to the bunkers and other safer locations to save themselves. It may be mentioned here that Indo-Pak hostilities had reached at its peak in entire Poonch sector in August and September after the killings of five Indian Army jawans in Sarla battalion area of Poonch on August 5. Several Army jawans and civilians had suffered fatal and non-fatal casualties in the firing. There had been heavy loss of life and damage on Pakistan side. The hostilities had also spread to the International Border. The talks between the DGMOs at Attari border in Amritsar and flag meeting between BSF and Rangers had led to halt of firing from both sides. Sources said there had been no hotline contact or flag meeting between Indo-Pak troops on the LoC so far despite last two days incidents of blasts and shelling. Meanwhile, top Army officers met at 120 BG Brigade this evening to devise strategy to meet with any kind of situation on the LoC and to give effective reply to Pakistan firing and shelling if the enemy troops didn't mend their ways. Army spokesman Col Manish Mehta said Pakistan Army carried out unprovoked firing using semi automatic, automatic weapons and mortars in BG sectors in morning. 'Our troops gave befitting reply,' he added. Meanwhile, Army paid rich tributes to Sepoy Shankar Lal, who attained martyrdom in the IED blast at Tarkundi yesterday, in a functions organised in Rajouri. Wreaths were laid on behalf of General Officer Commanding (GOC) White Knight Corps and other senior officers to honour the soldier. After tributes, mortal remains of the soldiers were sent to his native village at Jaipur in Rajasthan. Last rites of the soldiers were performed at village Phulera, Jaipur this morning. Local officers of Army, civil and police administration and political leaders apart from large number of local people joined the cremation.