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Friday, 31 May, 2002, 19:44 GMT 20:44 UK
Kashmiri civilians no longer feel safe
Pakistani soldier near the Line of Control
Soldiers are on high alert along the Line of Control

The town of Hajeera lies just 10 kilometres from Pakistan's front line with India - and until last Wednesday its residents said they felt safe from the fighting.


We want to settle the issue peacefully with India, but if they start a war we will fight bravely

KK Awan, Kashmiri lawyer

But that all changed when there was a mortar attack on the town, which lies in a valley in Rawalakot district of Pakistani-administered Kashmir.

The authorities said seven people were killed in the town and a nearby village.

The civilian jeep in which some of the victims were travelling, is still standing on the road into Hajeera.

The mortar landed next to the vehicle, killing four of those inside.

"If civilians are killed, it creates further harassment," said the local commander Brigadier Mumtaz Bajwa.

"It's hoped that people will pressurise the government if there are continuing casualties and suffering which would deflect from the main issue and involve everyone in crisis management."

'Unprecedented attack'

Although there is a military post next to the town, and what looks like a military hangar, Brigadier Bajwa said he believed the attack was deliberately aimed at civilians.

Residents of Hajeera pack to leave
Many Kashmiris feel unsafe in their own land

The driver of the jeep - Nur Mohammed - was among those killed along with his son.

Nur Mohammed's wife, Dil Jan, said she would not think of moving because she had her other children to look after.

"What was going to happen has happened," she said. "Of course I am worried but one always worries with daughters anyway."

Other local residents said the attack was unprecedented - and nothing had hit the town in several years.

Scaring civilians

However they said they would remain in their homes and would not go.

"No we will not leave - why would we go?" said KK Awan, a lawyer.

"We want to settle the issue peacefully with India. But if they start a war we will fight bravely."

The president of Pakistani-administered Kashmir, Sardar Mohammed Anwar Khan, visited the town.

He said he believed the Indians were trying to scare away the civilians.

'Too dangerous'

He also said it was untrue that there were militants in Pakistani-administered Kashmir who were crossing the border to attack the Indian side as the international community has stated.

"There are no militants - you can go and see for yourself," he said.

"There is only a civilian population.

"We would like to see international observers here who can monitor the situation for themselves."

There have been no further attacks on the town since Wednesday.

However, the cross border shelling continued and the commander, Brigadier Bajwa, said it was too dangerous for journalists to visit the nearby front-line positions.

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31 May 02 | South Asia
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