Soldiers are cutting off heads of enemies and giving them to chiefs as trophies Indian and Pakistani soldiers have started a barbaric new trend - chopping off their enemies' heads and presenting them to army commanders as war trophies. The Hindustan Times reported tit-for-tat beheadings last month by troops deployed along the Line of Control, the international border dividing Kashmir between the nuclear-armed rivals. An Indian Defence Ministry spokesman in New Delhi did not deny media accounts of the decapitations. But he refused to confirm details, citing operational secrecy. 'We cannot give an official reaction,' he said. The beheadings were reported from the Line's Rajouri sector, one of the most militarised border zones in the world. Pakistani troops apparently ambushed a patrol late last month, killing four soldiers. The head of one of the slain soldiers was cut off and carried away along with a light machine-gun. Indians retaliated within days, beheading two Pakistani soldiers after reportedly killing nine in a fierce counter-attack. 'Indian and Pakistani armies have a long history of hostility, but this is the first time that beheadings have come to light,' said retired lieutenant-colonel J. K. Dutt, a political analyst at Calcutta's Jadavpur University. 'It is certainly not the official policy of the defence establishment in Islamabad or New Delhi to cut off soldiers' heads.' He said the actions were likely instigated at the local level by commanders bent on settling personal vendettas. The officer who commanded the UN peacekeeping force in the Balkans in the 1990s, Lieutenant-General Satish Nambiar, said: 'I did not hear of such medieval sadism even in ethnically divided Yugoslavia, where blood-letting was rampant.' Mr Dutt and General Nambiar demanded speedy courts martial and punishment of Indian and Pakistani soldiers involved in beheadings. Achin Vanaik, co-author of South Asia on a Short Fuse, attributes the beheadings to 'war-mongering and unchecked competitive jingoism in India and Pakistan fanned by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party and Islamabad's military rulers'. It is believed that nearly 400 people have died in Kashmir since top rebel commander Ghazi Baba was killed by Indian troops on August 30. The exchange of fire across the 740km Line of Control has cast a shadow over tentative peace steps between India and Pakistan, which nearly went to war for a fourth time last year over Kashmir. Since Mr Vajpayee and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf urged peace in April, the neighbours have restored full diplomatic relations, resumed a cross-border bus service and opened talks on restoring air links. But New Delhi has linked more talks to the ending of what it calls Pakistan-sponsored cross-border terrorism that aids separatists fighting Indian rule. Officials say the number killed in Kashmir since fighting broke out in 1989 is more than 38,000, though separatists say it is more than double that.