Civilians flee amid Kashmir border clashes

Villagers tell Al Jazeera human toll of cross-border fighting near disputed region of Kashmir.

    Pakistani villagers have told how they were trapped in their villages as Indian and Pakistani troops clashed across the border of Indian-administered Kashmir and Pakistan's Punjab.

    Indian and Pakistani troops shot at each other for several hours overnight on Tuesday, following exchanges on Monday that killed nine civilians in the Punjab city of Sialkot.

    Khan Tahir Javaid Khan, a major general in the Punjab Rangers paramilitary force, told Al Jazeera that Indian troops had intensified their attacks and attempts at contacting Indian commanders had failed.

    Tens of thousands of Pakistanis had fled the border area, officials said, but others were unable to leave despite the shelling. Civilians around the city of Sialkot told Al Jazeera how they sheltered from Indian fire.

    "The Indians started indiscriminately firing on us. Everyone was terrified, the children are crying. We didn’t know where to go and tried to find somewhere safe in the house," said Mohammad Tariq, of the village of Dhamali.

    At a military hospital, Irum Shehzadi told Al Jazeera two of her sons and her mother-in-law were killed. Her third son, 6-year-old Akeel, was injured by shrapnel.

    “It was early morning we woke up for prayers and a mortar hit our house. When I looked at my children I found my two sons covered in blood and when I ran towards my mother in law I found her dead as well.”

    Fazal Hussain, a resident of the Pakistani village of Harpal, told the AP news agency that the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha had turned from "festivity to wailing".

    "We are burying our relatives, rushing the injured to the hospital instead of celebrating Eid," he said.

    In Indian-administered Kashmir, more than 20,000 people have evacuate their villages.

    By Tuesday morning, more than 10,000 people had signed in at Indian government shelters, according to a regional administrator. Thousands more were staying with relatives or friends, he said.

    The fighting is amonth the worst violations of a 2003 ceasefire between India and Pakistan. 

    The two countries have fought two wars since 1947 over their competing claims to the Himalayan region.

    There was no violence reported in the Pakistan-administered portion of Kashmir further north.

    Al Jazeera's Hameedullah Khan contributed to this report.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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