LoC Again Rattled, Several Posts, Villages Hit By Heavy Shelling

17 August 2015
The Daily Excelsior
Sanjeev Pargal

Srinagar: After lull during the day, Pakistan army late this evening resumed heavy shelling and firing in Balakote and Mankote sectors in Mendhar tehsil of Poonch and Manjakote sector in Rajouri district along the Line of Control (LoC) targeting 15 forward posts of the Army and 35 hamlets and sending fresh wave of panic among the people, some of whom migrated to safer areas during the day. Meanwhile, Pakistani Rangers also fired a couple of bursts at Nawa Pind and Jugnu Chak on the International Border in R S Pura sector at 10 pm tonight, violating ceasefire. However, no damage was reported. Like the previous two days, Pakistan army was directly targeting the civilian population in the villages and towns, which was evident from the fact that a large number of mortar shells landed in the villages, some of them hitting the houses. Seven mortar shells tonight landed at Lambi Bari village in Manjakote but fortunately, there were no casualties or damage. Similarly, the shells were hitting Balakote town and other forward villages frequently since 7 pm today when the shelling resumed after day's complete lull. The shelling continued till late tonight when the reports last came in. Official sources told the Excelsior that the panic-stricken people in forward villages of Balakote and Mankote have become sitting ducks for Pakistan and it was only miracle that mortar shells were not directly falling on their houses. The people have taken shelter inside their houses with lights switched off, making Balakote a complete war like zone. Sources said that after overnight shelling at Sabzian and Mandi in Poonch sector that lasted till 4 am today, the day's peace was shattered by the Pakistan army at 7 pm today when they resumed heavy shelling using 120 mm and 82 mm mortars and Heavy Machine Guns (HMGs) targeting entire Balakote sector and parts of Mendhar sector in Poonch district. 'Indian troops retaliated immediately from their posts, leading to heavy exchanges that continued when the reports last came in tonight,' sources said, adding the mortar shells were landing in civilian areas regularly in Balakote, leading to fresh wave of panic among the people, who had no way to go as entire Balakote town, where they could shift to the Government buildings, was also being hit by the shells. Sources said about 15 forward posts of the Army and 35 hamlets in Balakote and Mendhar sectors were being targeted from Pakistan side but troops were giving adequate and very effective response. As soon as the shelling began Army and civil and police authorities made announcements from loud speaker fitted vehicles asking the people to stay indoors and don't venture out of their houses. The people were also advised to keep the cattle inside their houses. 'There were no reports of any casualties on the Indian side in the shelling till the reports last came in but a number of houses have been damaged after being hit by splinters of mortar shells,' sources said. The heavy shelling was going on when the reports last came in with Indian troops giving very strong reply to teach Pakistan army a lesson. Pakistan army is reported to have suffered heavy losses in retaliatory firing by the Indian troops. Several forward posts of Pakistani troops have reportedly been damaged in the shelling by the Indian side. The shelling at 7 pm came after complete lull during the day in entire LoC in twin border districts of Poonch and Rajouri after two days of heavy shelling in which six civilians including a Sarpanch and a teacher were killed and over 20 other civilians were injured. Meanwhile, educational institutions in Balakote remained closed while all other roads leading to Balakote were opened for vehicular movement during the day today. Sources said that shelling with 120 mm and 82 mm mortar bombs and firing with HMGs continued in Sabzian and Mandi sectors from the Pakistan side intermittently throughout the last night but stopped in the morning. Though the day all along the LoC in Poonch sector remained calm and quiet, tensions persisted with large number of civilians leaving their houses in forward villages of Balakote and shifting to either their own houses in safer areas or their relatives in other places. Deputy Commissioner Poonch Nissar Ahmad Wani said the LoC remained calm during the day but, as a precautionary measure, the administration kept the educational institutions closed in Balakote sector. 'As we have advised the people to stay indoors, we can't open the schools in Balakote,' he said and added schools in rest of the border district of Poonch were open. Sources said the migration from the forward villages was silent. 'The people haven't asked the civil administration for tents in safer areas. They were not staying even in the Government buildings as every building in Balakote town was within the range of shelling by Pakistan army. The people, who have their own houses in comparatively safer areas shifted there this morning after shelling stopped while many families have left for the houses of their relatives in other towns. However, majority of population in both Balakote and Sabzian in Poonch sectors stayed put in their houses despite killing of six civilians and injuries to about 20 others in two days heavy shelling by Pakistan on August 14 and 15. 'There were no fresh casualties or damage on the Indian side in the shelling,' sources said.