Kashmiris flee, prepare bunkers | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 28, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:06 AM, February 28, 2019


Kashmiris flee, prepare bunkers

Cross-border shelling kills 4 in Pakistan, 7 wounded; 5 Indian soldiers injured

Thousands of Kashmiris have fled their homes, some bailed water out of disused bunkers, while others dug in -- determined to see out the latest flare up of hostilities between India and Pakistan.

Shelling across the heavily militarised Line of Control which divides Kashmir between the two South Asian countries sent many seeking shelter yesterday, even before India and Pakistan both claimed they had shot each other's warplanes down, igniting fears of an all-out conflict.

Pakistani officials said four people, including two children, were killed and seven wounded on Tuesday by shelling from the Indian side of the ceasefire line. Meanwhile, Indian media reports said at least five of India's soldiers were also wounded in cross-border firing along the LoC.

The death toll mounts on both sides each time sabre-rattling between India and Pakistan turns into conflict. This time, Kashmiris have watched warplanes fighting overhead and cowered under the shelling.

At least 2,000 people left their homes near the unofficial border in the Kotli and Jhelum Valley districts on the Pakistani side, and authorities closed all public schools, said officials. Other districts also saw an exodus.

"More people are leaving their homes and moving to safer places," said Umar Azam, a senior government official in Kotli. Internet was also cut in some zones near the frontier -- often a sign of military activity.

Women, men and children, loaded with cases and bags, could be seen on roads. Some pulled cattle or carried other animals.

Habib Ullah Awan, a 46-year-old grocery store owner in the nearby border village of Chakothi said shells were still falling when he left his home with eight members of his family early yesterday.

At Kamalkote, on the Indian side, residents said they had also faced heavy shelling.

"We spent the night in total horror. Shells did not land in the village, but fighter jets are still flying above us," said a man who gave his name as Tariq.

There was also heavy shelling at Poonch further south on the Line of Control. While no casualties were reported there, authorities have told villagers to prepare bunkers.

Baseer Khan, a senior government official in Indian-administered Kashmir, said authorities are always prepared to evacuate border residents but no order to do so has yet been given.

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