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5 civilians injured in cross-border shelling

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Guns continue to roar along IB, LoC

Jammu: Five people, including a 70-year-old woman, were injured as Pakistani Rangers today fired mortar shells on forward posts and villages along the International Border (IB) in the Jammu region for the eighth day, officials said.

Hundreds of panic-stricken villagers fled their homes and took shelter either at houses of their relatives or at relief camps set up by the government. Educational institutions in the affected areas remained closed.

Four people — Kaushalya Devi (70), Madan Lal Bhagat (48), Des Raj (52) and Thudu Ram (65) — were injured in the firing in Jammu district’s Arnia and RS Pura sectors, the officials said.

They said that 22-year-old Aman Singh of Bobiyan village was injured in Paksitani mortar shelling in Kathua district’s Hiranagar sector.

The firing from across the border was intense. Dozens of villages along the IB were hit by 80 mm and 120 mm mortar shells. This led to a fire breaking out this morning at Jora Farm, a hamlet of milkmen, the officials said.

Two dozen kullas (grass-cum-mud houses) were gutted in the fire, they added.

The fire was put out by Fire and Emergency Services personnel who despite the shelling managed to reach the hamlet, the officials said.

Firing stopped at most of the places in the afternoon, but was still going on intermittently at a few places in Samba district, they said.

Earlier in the day, a senior BSF official said that the firing and shelling continued unabated throughout the night and spread to all sectors along the border from Akhnoor to Samba.

“Pakistani Rangers suffered several casualties with a number of their bunkers getting hit during the skirmishes in prompt retaliation by the Border Security Force (BSF),” officials claimed.

“It has been learnt that one of the injured Rangers has been shifted to the Lahore hospital, while two others are being treated at a local hospital,” the official said.

Firing from the Pakistan side intensified over the past two days with villagers living close to the border escaping amid mortar shell explosions, officials said.

Several houses were damaged, they said, adding that the number of houses damaged due to shelling is being ascertained.

Inspector General of Police (IGP), Jammu, S D Singh Jamwal said police parties have been deployed and they are helping people to shift to safer places from the affected areas.

Jammu Divisional Commissioner Hemant Kumar Sharma said relief camps have been set up at safer places all along the border, especially in the worst hit R S Pura and Arnia sectors.

Hundreds of people have reported at these camps, set up in educational institutions and other government buildings, Sharma said.

He said adequate facilities are available at these camps so that the displaced people do not face any problems.

Schools vulnerable to Pakistani shelling have been closed along the border as a precautionary measure, Sharma said.

The latest round of shelling started on May 15 when the BSF claimed foiling two infiltration attempts by “Pakistan-backed infiltrators” in the Samba sector and intensified a day after Pakistan asked BSF to stop firing after being pounded with heavy artillery that left a trooper dead across the border on May 20, officials said.

So far seven people, including two BSF troopers and an infant, have been killed and 18 others injured in Pakistani firing.

Jammu and Kashmir has witnessed a spurt in shelling and firing along the IB and the Line of Control (LoC) this year.

Over 700 such incidents have been reported this year, which have left a total of 39 people, including 18 security personnel, dead and scores injured.

Pak not mending its ways: Rajnath

New Delhi, May 22: Asserting that Pakistan was not “mending its ways”, Home Minister Rajnath Singh today sent out a strong message to it over the continuing spate of “unprovoked firing” incidents along the border saying the government will never seek answers from Indian forces on “how they chose to retaliate” to such actions.

Delivering the keynote speech at the Border Security Forces’ 16th investiture ceremony here, he said, without naming Pakistan, that it was an “irony” that despite India wanting peace with its neighbours, a particular country was not “mending its ways.”

“This (Pakistan’s acts) can be a subject of research and these activities of the neighbour are hard to understand,” Singh said.

He said that while the government has directed the Border Security Force (BSF) and other forces on the border like the army to never fire the first bullet, “no one will ask them how they chose to retaliate”.

“If you (the BSF) are fired upon, then you have to decide what is the best course of reaction or action. You have done this with remarkable responsibility in the past,” the minister told the personnel of the border guarding force.

He reiterated that the force was giving a “befitting reply” to these unprovoked incidents, especially those taking place along the India-Pakistan International Border (IB) in the Jammu region for the last few days.

The home minister said the Modi government’s ambitious plan to completely seal its borders with Pakistan and Bangladesh using technology gadgets and ‘smart fences’ is a “work in progress.”

“In few months, the work should get completed,” he said.

“We are a peace-loving country and want cordial relations with all the countries including our neighbours, he said addding India gave to the world the concept of ‘Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam’ or ‘the world is one family’,” Singh said. (PTI)

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