Twenty civilians were injured as Pakistani troops shelled Indian villages with mortar bombs by targeting hamlets and border outposts (BoPs) in Jammu, Kathua and Samba districts along the International Border (IB) in the Jammu region for the eighth day today, prompting a strong and effective retaliation by the BSF.
Hundreds of panic-stricken villagers fled their houses and took shelter either at the houses of relatives or relief camps set up by the government at safer places.
All educational institutions in the affected areas remained closed.
"The Pakistan Rangers indulged in heavy and indiscriminate shelling of mortar bombs and firing of small arms and automatic weapons tonight, targeting villages in the Ramgarh and Samba sectors," a police officer told PTI.
Fifteen persons -- 13 in the Ramgarh sector, two in the Samba sector -- were injured in the firing and shelling in Samba district, he said, adding that of them, 11 were sent to the GMC Hospital in Jammu, while the remaining four were admitted to hospitals in the district.
Earlier, five persons were injured in Pakistani shelling in Jammu district.
While Kaushalya Devi (70), Madan Lal Bhagat (48), Des Raj (52) and Thudu Ram (65) were injured in the Arnia and R S Pura sectors of Jammu district, Aman Singh (22) of Bobiyan village was injured in the Hiranagar sector of Kathua district, officials said.
They added that the firing from across the border was intense as 80 mm and 120 mm mortar shells hit dozens of villages, including Jora Farm -- a hamlet of milkmen -- in the morning.
However, emergency services personnel managed to reach the villages along the IB here, despite the shelling, the officials said.
They added that the firing had stopped at most of the places in the afternoon, but was still going on intermittently at a few places in Samba district.
Earlier in the day, a senior Border Security Force (BSF) official said the firing and shelling had continued unabated throughout the night and spread to all the sectors -- from Akhnoor to Samba -- along the border.
He added that the Pakistan Rangers suffered several casualties with a number of its bunkers getting hit during the skirmishes.
"It has been learnt that one of the injured rangers has been shifted to a Lahore hospital, while two others are being treated at a local hospital," the official told PTI.
As the firing from the Pakistani side intensified over the last two days, the villagers living close to the border escaped amid mortar shell explosions, which caused massive damage to a number of houses, the officials said, adding that the exact number of houses damaged was being ascertained.
Inspector General of Police, Jammu, S D Singh Jamwal said police parties were deployed and they were helping the people shift to safer places.
Divisional Commissioner (Jammu) Hemant Kumar Sharma said relief camps were activated at safer places all along the border, especially in the worst-hit RS Pura and Arnia sectors.
Hundreds of people had reported at these camps, set up in educational institutions and other government buildings, Sharma said.
He added that adequate facilities were available at these camps, so that the displaced people did not face any problem.
All schools vulnerable to Pakistani shelling have been closed along the border as a precautionary measure.
The latest round of shelling had started on May 15, when the BSF foiled two infiltration attempts by Pakistan-backed infiltrators in the Samba sector, and intensified after Pakistan "pleaded" with the BSF to stop firing, after being pounded with heavy artillery that left a trooper dead across the border on May 20.
So far, seven persons, including two BSF jawans and an infant, have been killed and 18 others injured in the Pakistani firing.
Jammu and Kashmir has witnessed a spurt in Pakistani shelling and firing along the IB and the Line of Control (LoC) this year.
Over 700 such incidents have been reported so far this year, which have left 39 people, including 18 security personnel, dead and scores injured.
Meanwhile, opposition National Conference (NC) today expressed concern over the shelling and called for peace along the border.
"Bullets and shells are causing enormous human sufferings and this has to be stopped by working towards heralding peace by adhering to the ceasefire agreement," Ajaz Jan, provincial president, Youth National Conference, said.