Stepping up ceasefire violations, Pakistan tonight resorted to heavy mortar shelling and firing on several BSF posts along the Indo-Pak border in Samba and Kathua districts of Jammu and Kashmir, drawing a strong retaliation from India which killed two Pakistan Rangers.
BSF sources said they have got reports that five Pakistani Rangers have been killed in the exchange of fire since yesterday, with two casualties post 9:30 P.M.
Today's ceasefire violation was the fourth by the Rangers in as many days and the eighth in the last nine days.
BSF Director General DK Pathak, who briefed Home Minister Rajnath Singh at 10 P.M. said the force had thwarted a "major infiltration attempt" from across the border tonight and his troops were on high alert.
"We have foiled a major infiltration bid that was being carried out from across the Chorgali border outpost under the cover of heavy ceasefire violation firing," Pathak said.
With the violations continuing unabated, Singh had ordered BSF to respond with "appropriate" action. The Home Minister also said the firing was unprovoked.
A senior police officer in Jammu earlier told PTI that "Pakistani Rangers resorted to heavy firing and mortar shelling along International Border (IB) in Samba and Hiranagar sectors of J&K since 2135 hours tonight."
Also, IG BSF Rakesh Sharma told PTI that all the BoPs falling in three battalion areas of Samba and Hiranagar are being fired upon by Pakistan amid mortar shelling. Mortar shelling has also hit civilian areas, he said.
There was firing on four Border Out Posts (BoPs) in Samba sector including at Regal, Challiyari, Suchetgarh and also on three to four such posts up to Bansantar forward belt in Hiranagar sector of Kathua district, he said.
The firing and mortar shelling by Pakistani Rangers has come from Razab Sheed, Asif Sheed, Chak Bhura, New Pak and Dhandhar Posts, according to reports.
BSF troops guarding the IB has strongly retaliated, resulting in heavy exchanges which were still ongoing when reports last came in from the area, the officer said.
Police used speakers and announced that people should stay indoors and not venture outside, he said, adding that they have been also told to take shelter in bunkers.
"Firing along international border was reported at 9.30 P.M. on 8 BoPs from areas of Pansar, Bobyan, Manyari and Pahadpur areas of Hirangar sector in Kathua district," Deputy Commissioner Shahid Choudhary told PTI.
Border residents have been alerted and advised to keep lights off and stay indoors. Evacuation will be initiated early morning in areas where required, he said.
Ambulances and doctors have been deployed at Hiranagar for responding to emergencies and three buildings have been made operational as relief camps keeping in view the volatile situation prevailing in the area, he said.
The Deputy Commissioner of Kathua along with senior officers of administration are camping in Hiranagar for monitoring the situation and coordinating relief and rescue operations.
All local body and panchayat officials and prominent persons in 57 border villages have been asked over the telephone to communicate to the public the messages regarding safety measures. Relief camps have also kept in preparedness, he said.
Eight BSF posts and villages at Patti, Pansar, Londi, Bobyan, Chakara, Lacchipura in Kathua district and seven border outposts in Samba district, including Manguchack, Chilyadiya, Regal, Chachval, Ramgarh, Maluchack and Nanga posts came under fire.
Earlier in the day, the Home Minister said there is no doubt that Pakistan was trying to push militants into J&K and giving cover to such attempts by continuous firing along the border.
"No doubt about that," Singh told reporters in Delhi when asked whether the repeated ceasefire violations by Pakistan were to cover infiltration attempts by militants. He said Pakistan has been firing towards Indian side along the IB in Jammu region and the BSF was giving a fitting reply.
"BSF jawans are giving a fitting reply," he said. Asked about Islamabad's protest against heavy firing by India, Singh said it was Pakistan which started the firing and "we are just responding to it".
Pakistan Rangers yesterday targeted 13 BoPs in Samba sector a day after four Pakistani Rangers were killed in a sharp counter-attack following the death of an Indian jawan in cross-border firing. Singh had said Pakistan should desist from such violations.
"Pakistan should not do this," Singh had said.
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had also said that Islamabad does not seem to learn any lesson.