FIVE MEMBERS of a family, including three minor children, were killed and two others injured as Pakistani troops resorted to “unprovoked and indiscriminate” shelling in over half-a-dozen villages near the Line of Control (LoC) in Balakote sector, in Poonch district, on Sunday morning.
The victims have been identified as Mohammad Ramzan (35), wife Malika Bi (32), sons Mohammad Rehman (14), Mohammad Rizwan (12), and Razaq Ramzan (7). Ramzan’s two daughters, Nasreen Kousar (11) and Mahreen Kouser (5) are reported to have suffered serious injuries.
Sources said the victims were inside their house, in Devta Sargloon village, when a mortar shell fell on their roof. Nasreen and Mahreen were airlifted to Jammu, where they are undergoing treatment at the Government Medical College Hospital.
A Defence Ministry spokesperson, Lt Colonel Devender Anand, said the Pakistani Army initiated unprovoked and indiscriminate firing of 81 mm and 120 mm mortar shells, besides other small arms fire, in Balakote area, from 7.45 am to 11.30 am, on Sunday. He said they targeted innocent civilians, their homes and livestock in villages close to the LoC.
“In today’s ceasefire violation, an issue of serious concern has been that Pakistan is targeting innocent civilians in localities deep inside Indian territory, almost 3-4 km from the LoC, where there is no Army deployment or any installation or even equipment installed,’’ he said.
“The deliberate provocation has resulted in loss of five precious and innocent civilian lives,’’ he said. “The Indian Army has retaliated strongly, effectively and proportionately to the dastardly act,’’ he added.
“Anguished to hear of 5 (five) people losing their lives in the crossfire along the LoC in Balakote sector of Poonch. My deepest condolences to their family,” tweeted Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti.
“Peace is the only way forward. Initiatives were started by (former Prime Minister A B) Vajpayee Ji with his Lahore bus journey & were later carried on in the same spirit by PM @narendramodi (Prime Minister Narendra Modi). Sadly they were sabotaged at Pathankot. We need to get on the right track if we want to save the people of J&K,” she tweeted.
Inspector General of Police, Jammu, S D S Jamwal said the civil administration was “alive to the situation” and appropriate precautionary measures had been taken to ensure the safety of civilians. “The firing has stopped and the local administration has reached the area. We have rushed bulletproof vehicles to the affected villages,” he said.
The shelling from across the LoC came a day after Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, while targeting Pakistan for giving political legitimacy to terror mastermind Hafiz Saeed, said Indian security forces could cross the LoC, if needed, to protect the country’s territorial integrity.
Ceasefire violations are at an all-time high this year, with over two dozen people, including security personnel, killed and nearly 90 others injured so far.