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Fake encounters haunt Kashmir again

Srinagar, May 29, 2010:

Thousands of people took to streets in Kupwara, northern frontier district of Indian administered Kashmir, Saturday to protest the killing of three civilians by Indian army allegedly in a set up gunfight.

Police fired warning shots to disperse the protestors.

The latest allegations of civilian killings in set up encounters puts a question mark on the gunfights by Indian army along the Line of Control (LoC), the de-facto border dividing Kashmir between India and Pakistan held parts.

Indian army claimed to have killed three guerrillas in a gunfight along the LoC on April 30.

Now it surfaces, the three may be civilians abducted from their villages three days prior to the encounter.

Authorities Friday exhumed bodies of three men on the instructions of state’s Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.

Abdullah has ordered a magisterial probe into the incident after family members linked the encounter to their missing children from police pictures of the bodies.

“The exhumation was carried out Friday late afternoon. The medical experts accompanied by police carried out exhumation in a Kalaroos graveyard of Machil sector to get the DNA samples. From there the bodies of youth will be dispatched to their ancestral village,” said Showkat Mir, the Deputy Commissioner Kupwara.

The Army on April 30 claimed killing three “infiltrators in a gunfight” attempting to cross LoC in the Machil sector in Kupwara, around 150-km northwest of Srinagar city, the summer capital of Indian administered Kashmir.

They also claimed recovery of assault rifles and ammunition from their possession.

Three days before the gunfight three youth from village Nadihal –Rafiabad of Baramulla district went missing under mysterious circumstances. The youth were identified as Muhammad Shafi, Shezad Ahmad and Riyaz Ahmad.

The family allege that the youth were abducted by a former special police officer and his accomplice on April 27 and handed over to army for the set up encounter.

The region’s pro-Indian opposition party- Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has raised a question mark on the sudden spurt in gunfights along LoC and sought a probe into killings in such gunfights.

Last month, in similar incident Army had claimed killing a 70-year-old militant in a gunfight inside Rainawari forests of Handwara.

However, the deceased later on turned out to be beggar. Police had registered a murder case against Indian Army in the case.

The Armed Forces Special Powers Act grants impunity to Indian troops operating in Kashmir from prosecution in civil courts.

Allegations of set up gunfights by security agencies for reward money and promotions are frequent in Indian administered Kashmir, and occasional investigations into some cases have found troops and police guilty of crimes.

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