The mutilation of a soldier’s body in a pre-dawn ambush Friday, metres from the Line Control, has set the stage for a fresh wave of bloodletting, intelligence sources have warned the government. The warnings come amidst the most intense violence on the LoC since 2003, when both sides implemented an unwritten ceasefire.
Mandeep Singh, a soldier with the 17 Sikh Regiment, was killed and his body mutilated while out on patrol ahead of Kala Post, one of several Indian forward positions in the Machil sector, in the midst of small arms and mortar fire that continued late into Saturday morning.
“There is rage among the troops over the disrespect shown to Singh’s body,” an officer serving with the 53 Brigade told The Sunday Express. “His killing will be avenged by the 17 Sikh, and with compound interest. No one’s orders are needed to do this, and none will be sought.”
Likely intended to compel India’s government to remain engaged in skirmishing which facilitates infiltration by forcing troops to keep their heads down, the gruesome killing is the first of its kind since 2013.
Sources said Singh was part of a patrol sent out from Kala Post to guard against infiltrating jihadists taking advantage of fire directed by Pakistani troops on Dana, Khan Basti and Tantray Basti, an arc of villages near the mouth of a mountain stream that leads up from the Neelum river on to the dense forests of Kalaroos, in northern Kashmir. Few other details were available on the circumstances in which Singh was killed. An officer with the 53 Brigade said he may have been killed in ambush, or lost his footing and fallen into a stream, prior to being executed.
Long a key route for Lashkar-e-Taiba jihadists based at launching pads in Sharda and Kel — believed to have been targeted in India’s raids last month — the Naushera stream was called “infiltration highway” by officers posted there in the mid-1990s.
The Army, in a statement released on Saturday, said that “in an encounter close to the Line of Control this evening, one soldier was martyred and one terrorist was killed”. However, police in Kupwara said they had not yet received notification of the killing of a terrorist, a legal requirement, suggesting the body may not have been recovered by troops.
In 2013, the beheading and mutilation of the bodies of Lance Naik Hem Raj and Lance Naik Sudhakar Naik sparked a major India-Pakistan crisis. The month after the incident, Pakistan alleged that one of its soldiers had been executed by Indian troops after being taken prisoner in a cross-border raid.
Earlier, in August, 2011, Pakistan complained that three soldiers, including an officer, were beheaded in an Indian raid on a post in the Sharda sector, across the Neelum river valley in Kel. The raid is believed to have been carried out to retaliate against the decapitation of two Indian soldiers near Karnah by Pakistani special forces, who used rafts to penetrate India’s LoC defences.
In 2003, Pakistan alleged Indian troops had killed a junior commissioned officer, and three soldiers in a raid in Baroh sector, near Bhimber Gali in Poonch. The raiders, it complained in a letter to the UN Monitoring Group, decapitated one soldier and carried his head off as a trophy.
Pakistan also complained that Indian soldiers beheaded one of its troops and carried his head across the LoC on June 19, 2008, in the Bhattal sector in Poonch. Four Pakistani soldiers, UNMOGIP was told, died in the raid.
These killings came after a June 5, 2008 attack on the Kranti BOP in Poonch, which claimed the life of 2/8 Gorkha Regiment soldier Jawashwar Chhame.