Indian cross-border firing in Kashmir forces residents to flee

MUZAFFARABAD: Several hundred villagers have fled their homes in Pakistani Kashmir after deadly cross-border shelling by the Indian army, Pakistani officials said Monday. 

Pakistani authorities on Sunday accused the Indian army of killing two women and wounding seven other civilians in shelling across the Line of Control (LoC) which marks the de facto border in the disputed territory.

So far six Pakistanis are reported to have been killed in firing across the heavily militarised border since five Indian soldiers were ambushed and killed on August 5 in Kashmir.

Delhi blamed the August 5 killings on the Pakistani army, but Islamabad has denied any responsibility and has called for restraint.

“Since Sunday at least 40 families or 300 people have left their homes in 10 villages in Nakyal sector to escape shelling by Indian troops,” said Javed Budhanwi, a cabinet minister for the regional government in Pakistani Kashmir.

Nakyal is around 200 kilometres (125 miles) south of Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani Kashmir.

The summer holidays for schools along the LoC have also been extended until August 31 for safety reasons, officials said.

Most of the displaced, from Datoot village, have been given shelter at camps set up in colleges in the town of Nakyal, Budhanwi said.

About 10 families have moved in with relatives and more people are expected to flee in the next few days if the Indian firing continues, he added.

“We are requesting villagers to remain inside their houses as Indian troops are targeting the civilian population with small arms and heavy weapons,” he said.

Many villagers have dug trenches outside their houses for when the shelling starts, he said.

Four civilians were wounded by Indian fire on Monday, local government official Masoodur Rehman told AFP.

He also confirmed that families had started to flee.

The clashes threaten to jeopardise a planned meeting between the two countries’ prime ministers on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York next month.

A deadly flare-up along the LoC in January halted peace talks that had only just resumed following a three-year hiatus sparked by the 2008 attacks in Mumbai that killed 166 people.

India blamed Pakistani militants for the attack.7

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