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Pak firing kills boy and father

Srinagar, Aug. 23: A six-year-old boy and his father died last night in the year’s heaviest exchange of fire between Indian and Pakistani troops that killed civilians on either side of the border and prompted thousands to flee their homes as shells exploded around them.

Two persons, including a woman, are reported to have died on the other side of the border after the gun and mortar fire started around midnight, officials said.

The fresh exchange of fire came amid mounting tension on the border following more ceasefire violations by Pakistan after Delhi cancelled Monday’s foreign secretary talks with Islamabad earlier this week. The decision followed the Pakistan envoy’s move to host a Kashmiri separatist despite Delhi’s objections.

RS Pora sub-divisional police officer Davinder Singh said Aslam and his father, Akram Hussain, 28, died after a Pakistani shell exploded outside their house in Jeoraform border village. Seven persons, including three members of Akram’s family, were injured. The two reported to have died across the border were from the Charwah sector of Sialkot.

Officials said Pakistani troops targeted 22 border outposts and 13 villages in the RS Pora and Arnia sectors of Jammu, using small, medium and heavy artillery, including 82mm mortar shells.

“Many people in the area sleep in the open during this part of the year. This particular family too was outside their house when one of the shells exploded,” police officer Singh said. “The explosion killed two and left three family members, including his (Akram’s) wife, mother and another child, injured.”

Singh said the firing started around midnight and continued till 7.30 this morning. “There wasn’t any firing throughout the day today… but around 2,000 people have been shifted to safer places.”

A BSF official said there had been a series of ceasefire violations on the international border (in Jammu) over the last few days. “We are giving an appropriate response to the shelling,” he added.

The firing prompted people, mostly children and women, to leave their homes for safer places. Paras Ram, the sarpanch of Sai Khurd, said most women and children from his village had shifted to safer areas. “Some of them left yesterday while the others followed them when the shelling was on. The men have stayed back to take care of the cattle.”

In Kashmir’s Uri sector, the Indian Army today handed over a 72-year-old man from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir to the Pakistani Army, three days after he had inadvertently crossed over to this side.

“Mangta Khan was handed over to the Pakistani side along with a new set of clothes and sweets for his family,” the defence spokesperson in Srinagar said.