Fear over unexploded Pak shells stalks Kashmiris

Army launches operation to spot and destroy such shells

Unexploded and highly volatile mortar shells fired by the Pakistani Army in October last year and January this year have littered this sleepy hamlet on the Line of Control (LoC) in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district, posing a grave threat to civilians.

Only last week Army engineers detected a deadly 81 mm mortar of Pakistan Ordnance Factory and later destroyed it. An 81 mm mortar is a medium-weight mortar. It is a smooth-bore, muzzle-loading, high-angle-of-fire weapon used for long range indirect fire support to light infantry.

“As the shells were fired in January some of these which didn’t explode remained hidden beneath snow. After the melting of snow several unexploded mortar shells have been found,” a senior army official told Deccan Herald.

He said dozens of shells were fired by the Pakistan Army on January 6 on this village and some of them didn’t explode. “We have launched an operation to destroy all such shells. It is dangerous. We are searching for more shells,” he added.

This hamlet on the foothills of the Haji Pir pass has often been targeted by Pakistani troops. Three civilians, including a young girl, were killed due to Pakistani shelling in October 2012. The village has suffered huge casualties since the partition.

The sarpanch of the village Laldin says that 74 people have been killed and 45 maimed in the last two decades due to the shelling from across the LoC. “Now, the threat of unexploded shells is giving us sleepless nights and is a major worry for us. These unexploded shells are a threat and it is only the Army which helps us to deal with the situation,” he added.

The Army has placed a warning board right at the entrance of Charunda village asking villagers to remain alert of mines and unclaimed objects. “If you find any unclaimed object don’t touch that and inform the Army immediately,” the board written in Urdu reads.

Living in fear

Mohammad Lateef Deedat, a villager, said they fear to till their fields due to the threat of unexploded shells. “Unexploded shells have become a new danger for us.

We fear to till our land and also raring of cattle has become difficult as no one knows how many unexploded shells might be in our fields. We take cattle to those areas only which have been declared safe by the Army,” he added.

The village, 130 km from Srinagar, has 252 families with 222 living in the direct firing range of the Pakistani machine guns and mortars. The villagers are mostly Army porters and earn their living by cultivating maze in their fields.

An Army officer posted on the LoC said the Army is ensuring that all the unexploded shells in the village are destroyed soon. “Our patrol parties keep a tight vigil on everything and they are on to the job to find out the unexploded shells, if any, in the village,” he said.

The officer said there has been uneasy calm in the village since January when heavy mortar shelling took place. “A small incident can trigger skirmishes but we are maintaining utmost restraint,” he added.

LeT commander arrested

The Jammu and Kashmir Police on Monday claimed to have arrested the militants involved in the killing of sarpanches and a civilian in north Kashmir, DHNS reports from Srinagar.

Inspector General Police Kashmir A G Mir said with the arrest of Pakistan-based Lashker-e-Toiba (LeT) commander Qari Naveed alias Fahadullah and subsequent arrests they have been able to solve the killing of a youth besides getting some crucial clues about the killing of two sarpanches.

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