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SOURCE: DAWN

Pakistan Army soldiers and two civilians were martyred and one civilian was wounded in two sectors of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) as Indian troops resorted to heavy shelling from across the restive Line of Control (LoC) on their independence day on Thursday which was observed as a black day in Pakistan as well as both sides of the disputed Himalayan region.

While Indian Deputy High Commissioner Gaurav Ahluwalia was summoned to the Foreign Office over the latest ceasefire violations, the prime ministers of Pakistan and AJK condemned the incident. The military casualties took place in Leepa sector of Jhelum Valley district and the civilian casualties in Battal sector of Poonch district, officials said.

The Inter-Services Public Relations, military’s media affairs wing, said in a statement that Indian troops increased firing along the LoC “in efforts to divert attention from the precarious situation” in occupied Kashmir. “Four Pakistani soldiers embraced shahadat,” the ISPR said without mentioning the area where the casualties had occurred.

However, military sources told Dawn that the casualties took place in Leepa sector, some 100km southeast of the AJK capital. In Battal sector of Poonch district, Indian troops started the shelling at about 5am, using machineguns and mortars.

Ilyas Ahmed, a police officer deployed in the area, told Dawn that the shelling subsided at about midday but resumed with full intensity at about 2pm. “It was ruthless… They pounded the entire area with mortar shells,” he said, adding that some of the villagers, who came out of their homes and other places assuming that the shelling would not resume, were caught off guard.

According to the officer, Muneebur Rehman, 45, son of Sain Rasheed, and Mohammad Aziz, 40, son of Chaudhry Kala Khan, lost their lives in Battal and Natar villages, respectively. Qari Mohammad Naqeeb, 60, was injured in Battal village and taken to a hospital.

Mr Ilyas said that 38-year-old Mohammad Sarfraz had embraced martyrdom on Tuesday in Lachyal village of the same sector in small arms fire by Indian troops “without any provocation”.

In a brief statement, Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned the unprovoked Indian shelling along the LoC and prayed for eternal peace of the martyred soldiers.

Condemning the martyrdom of three army soldiers in the Indian firing, President Dr Arif Alvi said the brutal India of Bharatiya Janata Party and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh would fail like that of Hitler’s Nazism. “My condolence to families of Lance Naik Taimoor, Naik Tanveer & Sepoy Ramazan, who embraced Shahadat during unprovoked Indian firing across LoC,” he said in a tweet.