Murphy's Law: Gurkha Soldier Arrested For Battlefield Bravery

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July 21, 2010: In Afghanistan, a British Gurkha is facing court martial for beheading a dead Taliban gunman. The trouble began when the accused Gurkha's unit had been sent in pursuit of a group of Taliban believed to contain a local Taliban leader. When the Gurkhas caught up with the Taliban, a gun battle broke out and several of the enemy were killed. The Gurkhas were ordered to retrieve the bodies of the dead Taliban, to see if one of them was the wanted leader. But the Gurkhas were still under heavy fire, and the Gurkha who reached one body realized he could not drag it away without getting shot. Thinking fast, he cut off the dead Taliban's head and scampered away to safety. When senior British commanders heard of this, they had the Gurkha arrested (and sent back to Britain for trial), and apologized to the family of the dead Taliban. The head was returned, so that the entire body (as required by Islamic law) could be buried. The British are very sensitive about further angering pro-Taliban Afghans, and go out of their way to collect all body parts of dead Taliban (especially those hit with bombs), so that the body can be buried according to Islamic law. The Taliban use accusations of Western troops disrespecting Islam as a major part of their propaganda efforts. When there are no real cases of such disrespect, which is usually the case, they make it up.

As far as beheading goes, the Taliban often do that on living victims, which even horrifies most Afghans. The Gurkhas also horrify most Afghans, as Gurkhas have been fighting Afghans for centuries, in the service of Britain or Indian princes. Gurkhas, who tend to be Hindus, featured prominently in an Indian effort to stop Moslem armies from entering India 1,300 years ago, and pushing the Moslems out of Kandahar (which was then an Indian border town).

Gurkhas are tribal people (of Tibetan and Mongol origin) from the mountains of Nepal, and have interacted, and intermarried, with Indians for thousands of years. Britain fought a war with the Gurkha kingdom two centuries ago, and found them such formidable opponents that they began hiring them as mercenaries, and continue to do so. India has even more Gurkha mercenaries than Britain, and Gurkhas are popular security operatives worldwide. Most Afghans are somewhat amused at the British punishing a Gurkha for simply doing what Gurkhas have been doing to Afghans for a long, long time.

 

 

 


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