SRINAGAR, India (Reuters) - India’s army accused Pakistani troops of killing two of its soldiers patroling the de facto border in the disputed Kashmir region on Monday before mutilating their bodies, and vowed to exact revenge.
Past accusations that Pakistani forces have mutilated dead Indian soldiers have outraged the Indian public and intensified the dispute between the two nuclear-armed neighbours over the Himalayan region.
Pakistan’s military denied the allegations. It said there had been no violation of a ceasefire on the Kashmir frontier and that its soldiers had not mutilated the corpse of any Indian soldier.
The Indian army said Pakistani forces fired rockets and mortar bombs at two Indian posts on the Line of Control dividing Muslim-majority Kashmir between the two countries, in the Krishna Ghati sector.
“In a unsoldierly act by the Pak army the bodies of two of our soldiers in the patrol were mutilated,” the Indian army said in an English-language statement, referring to Pakistani forces.
“Such despicable act of the Pakistan army will be appropriately responded.”
Reuters was not able to verify independently the authenticity of the Indian account.
Pakistan’s military described its army as a “highly professional force” that shall “never disrespect a soldier, even Indian.”
India and Pakistan have faced off for decades across the Line of Control, an old ceasefire line through the region that both countries claim in full but rule in part.
Sporadic cross-border attacks in past months have frayed the region’s 2003 truce.
In a separate incident, militants fighting Indian rule in Kashmir ambushed a van carrying cash for the state-run Jammu and Kashmir Bank, killing five policemen and two bank officials, a senior police official said. It wasn’t initially clear if the militants had looted the cash.
The attack occurred in south Kashmir’s Kulgam district, where protests against Indian rule have flared in recent weeks.
Both sides have previously accused each of violating the ceasefire and of beheading soldiers in the past.
India’s Defence Minister Arun Jaitley, who also holds the finance portfolio, condemned the latest killings which he called “reprehensible and barbaric”.
Peace talks between the two countries have been on hold for years and diplomatic engagement is at a minimum.
India accuses Pakistan of backing Islamist militants and encouraging them to attack Indian forces in Indian-controlled Kashmir and, occasionally, in other parts of India.
Pakistan denies that and says India must hold negotiations on the future of Kashmir.
Additional reporting by Drazen Jorgic in ISLAMABAD, Writing by Sanjeev Miglani; Editing by Robert Birsel and Richard Lough