Marking a sharp escalation of hostilities along the Line of Control (LoC) in north Kashmir, four soldiers, a BSF jawan and at least four civilians, including a seven-year-old boy, died in “unprovoked ceasefire violation” by Pakistan, officials said. At least “six to eight” Pakistani soldiers were killed in retaliatory fire, sources said.
The Army said in a statement that “Pakistan initiated unprovoked ceasefire violations along the LoC spread across multiple sectors to include Dawar, Keran, Uri and Naugam”, and used “mortars and other weapons”. “Pakistan deliberately targeted civilian areas,” it said.
Sources said firing from Pakistan began after the Army “eliminated infiltration attempts in the Keran sector” Friday morning. “Own troops retaliated strongly causing substantial damage to Pakistan Army’s infrastructure and casualties across the LoC. Several ammunition dumps, FOL (fuel, oil and lubricant) dumps and multiple terrorist launch pads have been damaged,” the Army said.
Watch: Heavy shelling from Pakistan troops in Kupwara’s Tangdhar village pic.twitter.com/PWXcV3pXMu
Sources told The Indian Express that the Pakistani soldiers killed in Indian firing include two Special Service Group commandos. “Nearly a dozen Pakistani soldiers were also injured,” sources said.
Late Friday, the Pakistan Foreign Affairs Ministry said that the “Indian Chargé d’Affaires was summoned” to register Pakistan’s “strong protest” over “ceasefire violations” in Neelum Valley, Leepa Valley and Bagh Valley. It said four civilians were killed and 12 others seriously injured.
The Indian Army is yet to confirm the identities of the four soldiers killed. While three of them died in the firing, a fourth succumbed to injuries later.
The BSF said in a statement: “SI Rakesh Doval of BSF Arty Regiment deployed along LoC in Baramulla, Kashmir laid down his life in line of duty while Pak forces resorted to ceasefire violation. DG BSF and all ranks of BSF salute his supreme sacrifice in service of the nation.”
Uri Sub-Divisional Police Officer, Junaid Wali, told The Indian Express that the civilian victims include two men, a woman and a child. They have been identified as Afrar Ahmad Jinder (7) from Gohallan, Toib Ahmad Mir (36) from Sultandaki, Farooqa Begum (35) from Balkote and Irshad Ahmad Gangyal (48) from Kamalkote.
Officials said that a 26-year-old woman and a 15-year-old boy were among 12 others injured in the firing, and that the death toll could rise as the condition of some of those injured is serious.
Political parties in J&K condemned the loss of lives. The National Conference expressed “solidarity with the bereaved families of civilians and soldiers” and called for an immediate end to cross-border shelling.
PDP spokesperson Suhail Bukhari said “there is no way but that of dialogue and reconciliation to achieve permanent peace and prosperity”. People’s Conference chairman Sajad Lone asked the administration to provide relief to affected families.
Apart from north Kashmir, at least seven people, including two BSF porters, were injured in Jammu’s Poonch district as Pakistani troops resorted to intense mortar shelling and small arms fire “without provocation” in the Sawjian area. Sources said the Army “retaliated befittingly”.
This year, there has been a significant escalation in ceasefire violations by Pakistan. According to official data, there have been 4,052 such incidents so far this year — 25 per cent more than the 3,233 violations across 2019.
These incidents have been rising over the last two months, with 394 violations in October and 128 so far this month. Before Friday, at least 20 civilians and five soldiers were killed in such incidents this year.
Army sources have cited increased infiltration bids in north Kashmir as one of the reasons for a higher number of violations aimed at providing cover to militants. There are more than 20 terror launchpads across the LoC in the Keran and Machhal sectors in north Kashmir, they said.
On October 26, The Indian Express reported comments from Lieutenant General B S Raju, Commander of the Chinar Corps (XV Corps), which is responsible for operations along the LoC, that there is “no desire on the part of Pakistan to stop infiltration”. He cited intercepts of infiltrators saying they are “unable to go” but are still being pushed to do so.
On October 23, Anurag Srivastava, spokesperson for the External Affairs Ministry, had referred to such ceasefire violations. “Pakistan forces have continued to engage in unprovoked ceasefire violations, often from civilian areas, to support infiltration of terrorists across the LoC,” he had said
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