Children in nearly half a dozen schools in Jammu and Kashmir’s Balakote sector of Poonch district were trapped in their respective buildings on Saturday morning after Pakistani troops resorted to intense mortar shelling and small arms fire along the Line of Control without any provocation. Army and police have begun rescue operations.
According to sources, the Indian Army retaliated and the exchange of fire is underway.
According to locals, nearly 50-60 villages along the entire 50 km border stretch from Balnoi near Mankote sector to Tarkundi were affected by the shelling which started around 9.45 am. Pakistani troops targetted civilian population living along the LoC, they added.
“We have shifted the students to a room and have asked them to take cover behind one of the walls,” a teacher at Government High School, Sandyot, said. “At least half a dozen mortar shells have fallen within 50 metres radius of the school building,” he added.
Besides Sandyot, the other educational institutions which were affected were Government Middle School Behrote and Primary School Lanjiyote, locals said.
Following the firing, the administration received several calls to rescue the children.
Poonch Deputy Commissioner Rahul Yadav admitted that five-six schools in Balakote area were affected by the mortar shelling and small arms fire.
The schools began classes at 8 am and the children and staff got trapped as the Pakistani shelling started much later, Yadav added. The administration will launch rescue operations once the shelling stops, he said.
Meanwhile, a vehicle and a cattle shed was damaged in Balakote area, sources said. However, no casualties were reported.