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Pak firing kills 5 of family in Balakote

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Five soldiers also injured in Mendhar; CM expresses anguish; Akhtar visits injured at hospital

Jammu, Mar 18: As Indian and Pakistani troops once again traded fire and shells across the Line of Control in Poonch, five members of a family including three minor brothers were killed in Balakote while five army soldiers were injured in Mendhar area today, officials said.

The “unprovoked and indiscriminate” shelling of civilian areas almost three-four kilometres from the Line of Control (LoC) by the Pakistani troops, lasted nearly four hours this morning, they said.

Director General of Police (DGP) S P Vaid in a tweet said, “Due to shelling from across (LoC) in Balakote sector of Poonch, 5 civilians of a family died & 2 are injured who are being shifted to hospital.”

The civilian casualties occurred in forward village of Devta Sargloon in Balakote sector when a shell hit the mud house of Choudhary Mohammad Ramzan (35), a police official said.

The deceased were Ramzan, his wife Malika Bi (32), their sons – Abdul Rehman (14), Mohammad Rizwan (12) and Razaq Ramzan (seven).

Ramzan’s two daughters — Nasreen Kouser (11) and Mahreen Kouser (five) — were critically injured in the incident and were airlifted to Jammu for specialised treatment, the police official said.

Meanwhile, five army soldiers were wounded in cross-border shelling in Mendhar area.

An official said that firing and shelling started today morning in Balakote sector of Poonch, resulting in injuries to five soldiers.

The injured soldiers – identified as Lance Naik Gaurav Vishnak (34), riflemanBudha Rai (33), Naik Jitender Verma (23), Rahul Pandey (24) and Subedar Deshbandu (47) – were airlifted to Udhampur for specialized treatment.

Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti expressed anguish over the loss of lives and stressed the need for peace “if we want to save the people of the state”.

“Anguished to hear of 5 (five) people losing their lives in the crossfire along the LoC  in the Balakote sector of Poonch. My deepest condolences to their family,” the Chief Minister said in a tweet.

“Peace is the only way forward. Initiatives were started by (former Prime Minister A B) Vajpayee Ji with his Lahore bus journey & were later carried on in the same spirit by PM @narendramodi (Prime Minister Narendra Modi). Sadly they were sabotaged at Pathankot. We need to get on the right track if we want to save the people of J&K,” she said in another tweet, referring to the scene of the 2016 terror attack on an Air Force Station in Punjab.

The Army PRO said today’s “ceasefire violation by Pakistan” was a serious issue of concern as civilian localities much deep inside, almost three-four kilometers from the LoC, were targeted despite the fact that there was no Army deployment or any installation or even no equipment installed.

Lt. Col. Anand said Pakistani troops used small arms, 81 mm and 120mm mortar shells.

Inspector General of Police, Jammu, S D S Jamwal said the civil administration was “alive to the situation” and appropriate precautionary actions would be taken to ensure safety of civilians.

“The firing has stopped and the local administration has reached the area. We have rushed bullet-proof vehicles to the affected villages,” he told reporters on the sidelines of a function here. (With PTI inputs)

Meanwhile, Minister for Works Naeem Akhtar today visited Government Medical College Hospital Jammu to enquire about the condition of two minor girls — Naureen  and Mehreen – who were airlifted to GMC Hospital Jammu for treatment after their entire family including parents and three brothers were killed as a shell hit their house in the forward area of Balakote in district Poonch today.

The Minister asked the doctors at GMC Jammu to ensure best possible treatment to the girls. He said the government is taking all the administrative measures to reach out to the affected population in the area.

The Minister was informed by the GMCH authorities that the ill-fated girls are being provided best possible treatment and one of them had to undergo surgery and is now recuperating.

Akhtar said the government would take full care of these minor girls, who have no one left to look after them in the family.

The Minister also expressed deep anguish over the continuing loss of precious human lives and targeting of unsuspecting civilians in cross-LoC firing bringing immense miseries to the people living along the borders in the state.

Akhtar also enquired about the condition of those injured in an accident near Hiranagar on Jammu-Pathankote highway today. The injured are undergoing treatment at GMCH Jammu.

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