Pak Extends Shelling Area; Targets School, Army, BSF Posts, Houses

18 August 2015
The Daily Excelsior

Jammu: Pakistan army and Rangers today extended areas of mortar shelling and firing to the International Border (IB) also as they continued heavy shelling using 120 mm and 82 mm mortars targeting forward posts of Army and BSF apart from civilian areas along the Line of Control (LoC) in Balakote and Hamirpur sectors in Poonch and Manjakote sector in Rajouri district confining the population inside the houses. A civilian was injured in the firing on the IB while several shells fell inside a closed Army school at Balakote. Apart from mortars, Pakistan army was also resorting to firing with Heavy Machine Guns (HMGs). Official sources told the Excelsior that a school run by the Army for border dwellers on the LoC in Balakote sector was targeted by Pakistan army this afternoon with three shells falling inside the school building. While the school was damaged, there were no casualties as authorities have already closed all schools in Balakote for an indefinite period and advised people not to venture out of their houses. Seven 120 mm mortar shells fell in Manjakote town of Rajouri district at 7.30 pm today but missed the target and there was no damage. Following this authorities ordered closure of Government high school, Khorinar in Manjakote tomorrow. 'The mortar shells are falling like rains in entire Balakote sector with worst hit villages included Basooni, Langiot, Panjni Nullah, Darati and Upper Gulad, parts of Hamirpur sector, Sabzian and Shahpur in Poonch sector and Manjakote in Rajouri district. There was no let up in the shelling,' sources said, adding Pakistani troops were halting shelling for couple of hours but again resuming it. This practice was going on at the LoC since last night. The shelling was going on Balakote and parts of Hamirpur sector when the reports last came in tonight. Shelling took place in Sabzian and Shahpur only last night while in Balakote and Hamirpur sectors of Poonch it continued throughout the day with brief lull of an hour or so but there were no casualties on the Indian side in latest round of firing so far. 'There were no casualties but a large number of houses have been damaged on the LoC in Balakote, Hamirpur, Sabzian and Shahpur sectors in Poonch district and Manjakote in Rajouri district after being hit by the mortars and bullets,' sources said, adding the people in all these sectors remained confined to the houses anticipating that shelling (where it had stopped for brief period) could resume anytime. 'The shelling was at high pitch in Balakote sector today with mortars falling in and around the houses and Army posts and several civilians and Army soldiers having narrow escape,' sources said and added that the Indian troops were giving matching response to Pakistan and the neighbouring country has suffered heavy losses in retaliatory firing by the Army. They said Pakistan has suffered massive losses. 'We are giving very effective response to teach Pakistan a lesson,' they added. Sources said the Army and administration have advised the people putting up on the LoC not to move out of their houses. They admitted that the people were living under extreme panic risking their lives as Pakistan army was targeting civilian areas with 120 mm mortar shells. Some of the civilians have already shifted to the houses of their relatives or their own houses in the safer areas but majority of population was living in the villages. Expanding the arch of its targets, Pakistani Rangers also pounded civilian areas and BSF positions along the International Border (IB) in RS Pura and Arnia sectors last night, injuring a villager. There have been 45 violations of the border ceasefire agreement of 2003 by Pakistan in August and over 240 ceasefire violations during the year so far. Sources said there was intermittent firing of small arms and mortar bombs by Pakistan Rangers from 10 pm onwards last night on five Border out Posts (BoPs) along the IB in Arnia and R S Pura sectors. 'Initially, the firing was with small arms. Later, 82 mortar bombs were also fired by the Rangers. When left with no option, BSF troops retaliated the fire befittingly,' sources said. 'The firing and shelling continued till 5 am today. No loss of men or material has been reported so far from BSF,' they said. However, a civilian identified as 38-year-old Subhash Chander sustained a bullet injury on his foot at Sai Khurd in Arnia sector. He is being treated at Government Sub-District Hospital in R S Pura, he said. The repeated ceasefire violations have claimed six lives in two days from August 15, drawing strong protests from India. On the intervening night of August 16-17, Pakistan troops had resorted to ceasefire violations in Sabzian and Mandi sectors of Poonch district and shelled forward posts and civilian areas with 120 mm and 82 mm mortar bombs and Heavy Machine Guns (HMGs). Pakistani troops had also shelled Balakote sector yesterday. On August 15 and 16, six civilians were killed and 22 others were injured in shelling on the LoC in twin border districts of Rajouri and Poonch. There have been repeated ceasefire violations by Pakistan along the over 110 kilometers long borderline in Poonch, Sabzian, Balakote, Hamirpur, Mandi sectors in Poonch district and Manjakote sector in Rajouri district between August 15 and 18. Last month, there were 19 ceasefire violations in which four persons, including three jawans, were killed and 14 others injured.