Srinagar, Oct. 2: Pakistani troops opened fire across the Line of Control today, leaving two children dead and a dozen villagers injured in Jammu's Poonch sector, as civilians bore the brunt of hostilities amid claims of casualties on either side of the border.
Officials said Pakistani shells landed in five villages, all around 3km from the LoC, triggering panic among residents.
On Saturday, Pakistan had said two civilians died in Indian shelling in Rakhchakri village of Rawalkote, opposite Poonch. Pakistan also claimed to have lost six civilians in Indian shelling on September 21 on the International Border.
Officials said Pakistani troops opened unprovoked and indiscriminate fire on Indian forward posts in Poonch. "The Pakistan Army used small arms, automatics and mortars in Poonch sector along the Line of Control. The Indian Army is retaliating strongly and effectively," said Colonel N.N. Joshi, defence spokesman at the Udhampur-based Northern Command headquarters.
This was followed by firing on civilian areas in Kerni and Digwar sectors of Poonch district. Poonch deputy commissioner Tariq Ahmad Zargar said Asrar Ahmed, 10, and Jasmin Akhtar, 15, died in today's shelling. "A dozen more were injured. Five villages were hit by shells and today's firing was most intense since a long time," Zargar said.
The injured included a five-year-old, Zobia Kousar. "The firing stopped from both sides at 11am," a police spokesman said.
In a statement, Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti said it was "unfortunate" that children had become "victims of fire power when they were yet to understand the nuances of politics".
According to sources, ceasefire violations by Pakistan have increased, with 285 violations till August 1 against 228 in the whole of last year.
Officials said they had set up shelters where villagers could shift. "We have 80,000 people living close to the LoC in the district. But they are reluctant to leave their homes, farms or their cattle behind," Zargar said.