by Peerzada Arshad Hamid
NEW DELHI, Sept. 18 (Xinhua) -- The troops of India and Pakistan exchanged heavy fire and shelling on Monday for the fourth-straight day on the International Border (IB) in Kashmir, officials said.
The exchange of fire was reported along the IB in Arnia area of R S Pura sector of Jammu, the winter capital city of Indian-controlled Kashmir.
"Pakistani troops again violated the cease-fire by firing mortars and resorting to heavy firing in Arnia sector along the IB last night. The shelling targeting Indian positions and civilian areas started around 9:00 p.m. (local time) and was intermittently going on since then," a police official said.
According to Indian officials, the border guards posted in the sector effectively retaliated to the firing and the exchange of fire continued for several hours.
No casualty was reported on the Indian side in the fresh exchange of fire, officials said.
On Saturday night a woman was killed and five others wounded in Arnia sector.
According to Pakistan military's Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), two civilians were killed and four others wounded due to Indian firing in Phokhlian sector on their side on Friday.
The fresh exchange of fire has triggered a panic among the residents on both sides of the divide and started to trigger civilian migrations.
Reports said nearly 50,000 civilians in forward villages of Pakistan's Sialkot sector have deserted their homes following the Indian firing.
In Arnia sector, the firing damaged more than 50 houses.
"It seemed as if war has broke out as shells were raining very close by," Ram Lal, a local resident said over telephone. "It was a very narrow escape for my family."
The residents in surrounding villages of Arnia -- Sei Khurd, Nikowal, Jabowal, Allah, Treva, etc. experienced the similar experiences.
Earlier on Friday an Indian border guard belonging to Border Security Force (BSF) was killed during skirmishes.
According to Indian officials, over 300 incidents of cease-fire violations were recorded along the LoC this year.
This year saw a surge in skirmishes on the IB and the LoC between the two countries. Apart from troop casualties, the firing has claimed civilian lives on both sides, besides prompting migrations of residents from frontier areas.
Both New Delhi and Islamabad accuse each other of resorting to unprovoked firings and violating cease-fire agreements. And both sides maintain that their troops gave befitting reply. The troops of India and Pakistan intermittently exchange fire on the 720 km-long LoC and the 198-km IB in Kashmir, despite an agreement in 2003 to observe a cease-fire. However, the cease-fire remains in effect.
LoC is a de facto border that divides Kashmir into India and Pakistan controlled parts.
Kashmir, the Himalayan region divided between India and Pakistan, is claimed by both in full. Since their independence from Britain, the two countries have fought three wars, two exclusively over Kashmir.
It is unclear what prompted the fresh stand-off between the troops of the two sides.
The two countries are currently at loggerheads with each other. Last week the two-day talks between them at the World Bank headquarters in Washington failed to break the deadlock.