Pakistan Army brass ordered attack to avenge losses on Line of Control

Local commanders, sources said, had underlined the need for reprisal strikes following the killing of seven to ten soldiers in an April 17 Indian artillery assault.

Written by Praveen Swami | New Delhi | Updated: May 3, 2017 8:08 am
MoS Home Kiren Rijiju during a ceremony to pay tributes to BSF soldier Prem Sagar in New Delhi, India, Tuesday, May 2, 2017.  Express Photograph by Tashi Tobgyal

The savage ambush on the Line of Control which led to the decapitation of two Indian soldiers on Monday is believed to have been authorised by Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa following a visit to Pakistani military positions in Haji Pir on April 30, Indian intelligence and military sources have told The Indian Express. Local commanders, sources said, had underlined the need for reprisal strikes following the killing of seven to ten soldiers in an April 17 Indian artillery assault.

Lt General Nadeem Raza, who commands the Pakistan X Corps, responsible for Kashmir, pushed back against concerns that the retaliatory action could lead to escalation on the LoC, sources said, along with Major General Azhar Abbas, head of the Murree-based 12 Infantry Division, the formation whose units have been at the receiving end of the artillery duels on the LoC since last year. “Ever since the cross-Line of Control strikes that followed the Uri terrorist attack, things haven’t really quietened down” an Indian intelligence official said. “The skirmishing has been costly for Pakistan, and we think it’s trying to show India it is now willing to risk escalation, despite the weakness of its military position on the Line of Control.”

Estimated to deploy some 200,000-225,000 troops along the LoC, the Indian Army’s 15 and 16 Corps in Jammu and Kashmir have overwhelming numerical superiority against Pakistan. Pakistan’s X Corps, made up of the 23 Infantry Division, 12 Infantry Division, 19 Infantry Division and Force Command Gilgit-Baltistan, has some 100,000-125,000 troops. General Bajwa, who came to office soon after the cross-border raids ordered by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the wake of the Uri attack, has placed Kashmir high on his agenda, visiting the Kel sector in March, and the shelling-hit Bhimber sector in December and February.

Also Read | Two soldiers beheaded: DGMO warns Pakistan counterpart, BSF says attack ‘very well-coordinated’

Haji Pir, the site of his April 30 visit, is a strategically-vital pass India captured in the 1965 war and then returned to Pakistan in a territory-swap, and marks the northern end of India’s Krishna Ghati sector in Mendhar, where the ambush took place Monday. Élite special forces, sources said, are believed to have monitored the Indian patrol that left Kirpan post, manned by the 200 Battalion of the Border Security Force, early in the morning, in a routine search for improvised explosive devices, knowing it would take cover in the nearest available space when machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades are fired from across the Line of Control. “The killing was over inside just a few minutes,” a BSF officer, who spoke to the two survivors, said.

The lethal ambush came days after the largest Indian fire assault since last year, targeting Pakistani posts across a large swathe of the LoC in Poonch and Rajouri. The Pakistan Army had made no official statement on the April 17 fire assault by India. However, Indian military observers estimate that up to ten Pakistani soldiers may have been killed or injured in fire directed at a position identified on Indian maps by the codename Pimple, facing Kirpan post.

Four civilians — Mohammad Shakil, Ishrat Bibi, Irum Younas and Atif Majeed — were, however, reported to have been injured in Kotli and Bhimber districts because of Indian shelling across the LoC that day. Indian military sources said the unusually heavy fire assault on Pakistani positions was ordered to retaliate after sustained fire was directed on both civilian and military positions that morning, forcing the closure of schools near the LoC in Rajouri.

Earlier skirmishing in the Rajouri-Poonch belt had led to the April 1 killing of Naib Subedar S Sanayaima Som by an improvised explosive device believed to have been laid by a Pakistan Army raiding party, while sepoy Deepak Ghadge was killed in shelling on March 9. Last November, Indian troops ambushed and killed seven Pakistani soldiers near the LoC in Sundarbani, following the decapitation of the 17 Sikh Regiment’s Sepoy Mandeep Singh. Singh’s mutilated corpse was discovered after he got separated from his patrol near the LoC ahead of Kala Post, one of several Indian forward positions in the volatile Machil sector. The killing was the first major showdown on the LoC after the post-Uri strikes.

Following the ambush in Sundarbani, Pakistan hit back, killing three Indian soldiers engaged in a counter-infiltration patrol along the Lashdat nullah in Machil, one of whose bodies was mutilated by the attackers. The onset of winter had ended skirmishing on the northern stretches of the LoC, but mortar and machine-gun fire continued to be exchanged through the spring in Rajouri and Poonch, culminating with the violence in April and May. Indian and Pakistani troops have both been accused of beheading enemy soldiers. In one gruesome August 2011 incident, 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.

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  1. C
    May 5, 2017 at 2:42 am
    Bah! An article that is better suited for a ty gossip column. Pointless article (like most pieces written by Praveen Swami). Anyone interested in just how unprofessional he is as a journalist should check out his Twitter handle @praveenswami. Given the nature of his tweets, he would have at the very least been censured or fired had he been emplo at another media outlet. What remains of interest is just who his "sources" are. A very well-connected individual. A background check should be run on him...
    1. Parshu Narayanan
      May 4, 2017 at 1:01 pm
      I request Indian commenters here to refrain from making any insulting references to Islam or its Prophet(PBUH) regardless of whether Hinduism is abused or not. Islam is the faith of 25 crore Indians who are loyal to India and the faith of many decent stanis who would not be rude about other faiths ever. By using inappropriate words for faiths not your own you are weakening India, hurting 25 crore of our citizens and turning your face on your Sanskaras and what our Cons ution expects from you. Jai Hind
      1. P
        May 4, 2017 at 7:51 am
        Deceive India media by tel lie to his people. Kil 10 and kil 7 stani soldiers. Your Indian army can't fight with Kashmir freedom fighters kil you Indian more then 30 soldiers then how you fight with professional stani army. Liers and deceive foolish Indian by showing them fake surgical strike
        1. R
          May 5, 2017 at 8:23 am
          You slaves of Punjabis should just stfu and go back to sel dry fruits.
        2. H
          May 4, 2017 at 5:36 am
          Dear Modiji, It time you take stern military action against stan before Indian public loose faith in you. Winning elections alone is not enough. Word of peace is all talk of past century. Get tough in J&K otherwise our Jawans and army will be demoralized. It is best time to attack Pak. As china and USA have been busy with N.korea.
          1. Srinivasulu Mekala
            May 3, 2017 at 5:28 pm
            Praveen Swamy is an overt agent of ISI. He gets information and in return he supplies information. That is the reason he is not allowed any contact with the Army officials. His articles are mostly anti BJP and anti India. He suggests handing over of Kashmir on a platter to stan.
            1. Parshu Narayanan
              May 4, 2017 at 1:06 pm
              Mekala - to accuse another Indian citizen of treason is an extremely serious charge not to be made lightly. I hope you have evidence for this you can share here or you are the anti-national who is behaving like a Takfiri Mullah accusing others of blasphemy without proof. Please understand criticizing any one govt or Political party does not make one anti-national. Or give you the legal right to call anyone that. Just chill and go and watch BB#2
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