Jammu: Eight civilians, among them five women, were killed and 14 were injured on Tuesday as Pakistan troopers bombarded several border areas of Jammu and Kashmir with heavy mortar shells, triggering mass migration from dozens of frontier villages near here, officials said.
The Border Security Force (BSF) said it effectively retaliated the offensive and destroyed 14 outposts across the border after heavy shelling led to civilian casualties — the deadliest in a day amid heightened tensions between India and Pakistan.
The officials said six civilians were killed in Ramgarh in the frontier district of Samba on the International Border and two others lost their lives in Rajouri on the Line of Control — the de facto border that divides Jammu and Kashmir between the two arch rivals.
A police spokesperson said the dead in the Ramgarh sector included a girl, 16, and two other women. A total of 14 civilians were injured in the Pakistani shelling.
“All the injured civilians have been shifted to hospital,” the spokesperson said. At least two dozen head of cattle have also perished.
A BSF official said Pakistan Rangers indiscriminately targeted civilian areas and defence facilities in Ramgarh since morning.
“We have effectively retaliated by launching a counter offensive against Pakistan’s indiscriminate targeting of civilian facilities. Fourteen Pakistan outposts have been more or less completely destroyed.”
Police and civil officials said hundreds of residents were forced to abandon their homes near the border in the Samba district. They used every mode of conveyance, even walked barefoot, to escape from the line of fire.
The border residents were also worried about their harvest-ready crops. Authorities have set up temporary accommodations — in educational institutions, rural development department buildings and community halls — for hundreds of border residents in Jammu, Samba and Kathua districts.
Amid the mass exodus, authorities have closed 174 schools in border areas till further orders.
On the LoC in Noushera sector of Rajouri, the Pakistan Army blasted various Indian positions. Many shells landed in villages, killing at least two women, defence sources said.
India accuses Pakistan of regularly violating a 2003 ceasefire agreement signed to maintain peace at borders and along the Line of Control (LoC). Pakistan has been blaming India for provoking the border tension against the backdrop of a diplomatic war over Kashmir and cross-border terrorism.
Border skirmishes intensified after Pakistani militants attacked a military base in Jammu and Kashmir’s Uri, killing 19 Indian soldiers on September 18.
The Uri attack prompted the Indian Army to carry out a surgical strike that destroyed seven terror launch pads and killed an unknown number of terrorists and their sympathisers in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, across the LoC.
India shares 230 km of International Border and 740 km of LoC with Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir. The boundary, manned by the paramilitary BSF runs through Jammu, Samba and Kathua districts, and the LoC, which is not an internationally-accepted frontier, cuts across other regions of the state.