In a cross-border raid in Poonch’s Mendhar region, alleged Pakistan Army regulars targeted an Indian Army patrol under the cover of fog on Tuesday morning, killing two soldiers and beheading one of them. They are believed to have carried back the head with them.
Two soldiers were seriously injured in the attack that happened well within Indian side.
The Ministry of Defence called the incident a “provocative action”. In a statement, the ministry said: “The government of India considers the incident a provocative action and we condemn it… The government will take up the incident with the Pakistan government. We expect Islamabad to honour the ceasefire agreement strictly.”
The attack appears to have been in retaliation to the killing of a Pakistan Army soldier on Sunday in the Haji Pir area. The Pakistani Army had claimed that one of its soldiers had died after Indian troops crossed the border and attacked a post, which had been denied by India.
While the Army did not comment on the brutality of the attack, beyond saying that one of the bodies was found to be mutilated, sources said Pakistani troops had slit the throat and carried back the head of a soldier.
A senior Army officer confirmed that one body was found to be badly mutilated. Unconfirmed reports also suggested that two porters hired by the Indian Army were missing after the attack.
The Army’s statement is also significant given the fact that it named regular Pakistani Army soldiers for the attack. In the past, similar attacks or cross-border raids have been attributed to militants or non-regular forces from Pakistan.
“Two soldiers, Lance Naik Hemraj and Lance Naik Sudhakar Singh, laid down their lives fighting the Pak troops,” the Indian Army spokesperson said, adding that there has been a “significant escalation” in ceasefire violations and infiltration attempts “supported by the Pakistani Army”.
A similar attack had taken place on the LoC two years ago with bodies of Indian soldiers found mutilated.
Sources said the incident took place around 10 am when a party of four Indian soldiers, belonging to the 13 Raj Rif regiment, were carrying out a patrol along the LoC near the Nangi Tekri area. The soldiers were ambushed by a Pakistani army party comprising eight to 10 men, reportedly belonging to the 653 Mujahid Regiment, dressed in black.
“Pakistan army troops, having taken advantage of thick fog and mist in the forested area, were moving towards posts when an alert area domination patrol spotted and engaged the intruders,” the Army spokesperson said. The exchange of fire lasted approximately half an hour before the Pakistani soldiers retreated, he added.
The Ministry of External Affairs Tuesday denied that Indian troops had violated the ceasefire agreement or crossed the LoC, as alleged by Pakistan. Spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said that in the early hours of January 6, Pakistan troops in the sector commenced unprovoked firing on Indian troops. “India is strongly committed to the sanctity of the LoC in Jammu & Kashmir, which is the most important Confidence Building Measure between the two countries. The ceasefire along the LoC, which has largely held since 2003, is an important element of this CBM. The Director Generals for Military Operations of both sides have spoken to each other on the incident,” he said.
The MEA’s response came a day after India’s Deputy High Commissioner in Islamabad was called to the Pakistan Foreign Office to lodge a protest over what it termed an “unprovoked Indian attack” on one of its military posts along the LoC. Claiming that Indian troops had crossed the LoC and “raided” a border post, Pakistan had said that its troops “effectively responded and repulsed the attack successfully”.
Facing a spurt in ceasefire violations, India had put forward proposals to Pakistan that include a fresh border rules agreement and more flag meetings by adding an additional sector along the LoC. The issue was taken up for discussion at expert-level meetings on Conventional and Nuclear Confidence Building Measures between India and Pakistan in New Delhi on December 27 and 28. Islamabad has not shown interest in the proposal.
According to available figures, 44 ceasefire violations were reported in 2010. It went up to 51 in 2011. Till August 2012, it had touched 33.
With inputs from ENS, Jammu