MUZAFFARABAD: Four soldiers were martyred on Sunday when their army vehicle was struck by Indian shelling from across the Line of Control (LoC), the Inter-Services Public Relations said in a statement.
The latest incident between the nuclear-armed neighbours took place in Athmaqam in Azad Kashmir’s scenic Neelum Valley, where military officials said they responded to the Indian ceasefire violation.
“The vehicle fell into the Neelum river. Four soldiers drowned. Body of one shaheed (martyr) recovered, search for remaining three in progress,” the military said in the short statement.
Spokesman for India’s Ministry of Defense Lieutenant Colonel Rajesh Kalia said he had no knowledge of the incident. The attack was similar to an earlier assault on a civilian bus in the same area last year, according to the army’s media wing.
The ISPR said that Pakistani forces had responded to the ceasefire violation.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the firing and praised the prompt response by Pakistan army in thwarting the attack, a statement by his office said. The prime minister also expressed deep grief and condolences with bereaved families of the martyred personnel.
The situation along the Line of Control (LoC) has been ‘especially tense’, ISPR DG Maj Gen Ghafoor told a media briefing in Islamabad on Sunday, quoting 580 ceasefire violations in this year alone. There were 382 in 2016, 248 in 2015 and 315 in 2014, he said. Current ceasefire violations have resulted in the highest number of civilian casualties than in the past, he said.
“This indicates the Indian aim of diverting attention from political upheaval in Indian Occupied Kashmir,” he said.
The ISPR chief lamented that the Indian army has the choice of opening fire on civilian areas whereas the Pakistan Army cannot do that to Kashmiris across LoC. “We only fire towards bunkers where we think the firing is coming from. We try to keep civilian casualties to a minimum,” he added.
India and Pakistan have been in confrontation for decades across the LoC.
The hostile neighbours regularly exchange mortar fire across the Line of Control, despite signing a ceasefire agreement in 2003.
In May India accused Pakistani forces of killing two soldiers patrolling the LoC and mutilating their bodies. Pakistan’s military denied the allegations and said it had not committed ceasefire violations.
Both sides have previously accused each of violating the ceasefire and of beheading soldiers in the past.
Earlier this year during a meeting of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Kashmir Affairs, Disaster Management Authority director general had said that unprovoked firing by Indian forces across the LoC had taken 832 lives, while 3,000 people had been injured and 3,300 houses had been damaged.
Published in Daily Times, July 17th , 2017.