TITRINOT: Pakistani villagers in Kashmir living on the de facto border with India say they are trapped indoors, terrified by the heavy exchanges of fire between Pakistani and Indian troops.
In the village of Darmassal, on the edge of the Line of Control (LoC) and just metres away from Indian positions, boats which usually ferry people across the Poonch river have stayed moored since Wednesday because of heavy Indian firing, residents say.
“We are scared. We can’t come out because the area is under constant fire,” villager Shaukat Butt, 38, told AFP while hiding in a house.
“We used to cross the river by boat but yesterday Indian soldiers fired at our boat, so everybody is confined inside now and the boats have stopped,” he said.
Darmassal is part of the Battal region, where Pakistan accused Indian troops of opening fire and killing a Pakistani soldier on Thursday, the third cross-border incident since Sunday.
The Indian army post stands on the mountainside opposite the village and a Pakistani post lies beneath it, in front of the village and the river.
“I am very worried about my children. I want this firing to stop,” said Nazia Bibi, 35, who left her three children with her husband in the nearby main town of Titrinot and went to Hajira, another border town 12 kilometres (seven miles) away, to see her parents.
She says she is now too scared to return to Titrinot.
“I want to go back to my husband and children but can’t due to this firing. There is constant firing at the civilian population by the Indian side,” she said.
“We and our children are not safe in these conditions, we want peace,” she added.
A road between Titrinot and Hajira, which is the main route for trucks carrying supplies to and from India and Pakistan, has also been closed due to the firing.
“I started my restaurant at this hotel five years ago and did good business during the time of ceasefire. But from yesterday (Wednesday) onwards, I have had to save my own life and there is no business,” said Ishtiaq Ahmed, the owner of a roadside cafe.
“If this firing starts again, we all will become homeless,” he said.
A senior government official in the area, Mushtaq Ahmed, said that the firing had restricted the movement of around 40,000 people.
The United States has urged the nuclear-armed rivals to cool tensions along the heavily militarised LoC.
On Tuesday India said two of its soldiers were killed by Pakistani troops and one of them was beheaded, while Pakistan denied any responsibility.
On Sunday the Pakistani army accused India of killing one of its soldiers and wounding another in a cross-border attack.
India said its troops opened fire following a Pakistani mortar attack, but denied they crossed the border.