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3 Indian soldiers killed, 5 injured in 'retaliatory firing' across LoC, ISPR claims

3 Indian soldiers killed, 5 injured in 'retaliatory firing' across LoC, ISPR claims

Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) claimed the army killed three Indian soldiers in "retaliatory firing" across the Line of Control (LoC) as Indian shelling took two civilian lives in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) on Wednesday.

"There are reports that three Indian soldiers were killed and five injured [in retaliatory fire by Pakistani troops]," the ISPR said in a press release.

ISPR said Indian "unprovoked firing" in the Rawalakot and Chirikot sectors "targeted civilian populations" in the villages of Kahuta, Chaffar, Serian and Narakot.

"Pakistan army posts are effectively engaging Indian posts,", ISPR said, adding that Indian posts had suffered heavy damage.

As Indian troops resorted to heavy shelling from across the LoC, a woman and her younger brother were killed and two others injured in AJK.

Shelling began at 6am in the Abbaspur sector of Poonch district and remained "intense and indiscriminate" until 9am, Qaisar Aurangzeb, assistant commissioner of the area, told Dawn.

"The Indians used both small and heavy arms, targeting the innocent and defenceless civilian population without any provocation," the official said.

One of the shells landed on the house of one Haji Sakhi Mohammad Kiyani in Chaffar village, killing his two children on the spot, he said. Their house was also badly damaged.

He identified the deceased as Zakia, 22, and Kashif, 20.

Additionally, Nazira Begum, 60, and Kausar, 35, were injured in Chaffar and undergoing medical treatment in the Rural Health Centre Abbaspur.

Aurangzeb said officials were yet to reach the affected houses as shelling was continuing intermittently.

"We have gathered information on phone," he explained.

He said educational institutions in the most vulnerable areas had also been closed. "Some people did send their children to schools but they were sent back in the interest of their safety," he said.

Badiuz Zaman, a local journalist, told Dawn that the Indian army was "intentionally targeting civilian houses".

"They are demolishing civilian houses to create panic among the residents along the LoC," he said.

Zaman said Pakistani troops were also effectively responding.

There was no immediate statement from the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), the media wing of the Pakistan Army.

Officials in Kotli district's Nakyal sector said on Wednesday that many areas in their jurisdiction were also hit by overnight Indian shelling. However, there were no reports of any casualties as yet, they added.

The heavily militarised LoC that splits Kashmir between Pakistan and India has witnessed regular cross-border shelling for quite some time, mostly resulting in civilian casualties.

AJK State Disaster Management Authority Director Saeed Qureshi said that the latest civilian casualties caused by Indian shelling in AJK had pushed the death toll from cross-border firing this year to 36. There have been more than 200 civilians injured, he said.

At least three houses have been damaged completely, and 43 houses and two educational institutions damaged partially, he said.

On Monday, an elderly man was killed and five others wounded in Indian shelling in Haveli district, while two civilians were killed in the same district last week. A soldier was killed and three other soldiers injured on the same day in Haveli district.

Prior to that, on September 27, one civilian was killed and four injured in Nakyal sector.

One civilian was killed and two wounded in the same sector on September 23.

The last casualty in Abbaspur sector was reported on September 2 when a 5-year-old girl was killed by small arms fire by Indian border forces in Polas village.

Pakistan's Permanent Representative to the United Nations (UN) Maleeha Lodhi at the UN General Assembly on Tuesday warned India against its repeated threats to carry out surgical strikes across the LoC, saying that Pakistan would respond effectively to any Indian aggression.

"All I can say to them is: do not underestimate Pakistan’s resolve and capacity to defend itself," Ambassador Lodhi said.

Last month, Indian army chief Gen Bipin Rawat termed India's alleged surgical strikes in Sept 2016 a "message" to Pakistan, saying they could be repeated "if needed".

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