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Ex-Indian Army officer kills family, self in US

June 10, 2012 17:32 IST

A former Indian army officer, Major Avtar Singh, who was wanted in India for the murder of a prominent Kashmiri lawyer, has killed himself along with his wife and two children in his California home.

Fourty-seven-year-old Singh had fled to the United States after he was accused of killing Jaleel Andrabi, a Kashmiri lawyer and activist associated with the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, whose body was found floating in the Jhelum River in March 1996.

Andrabi, 42, was allegedly detained by a unit of Rashtriya Rifles led by Major Singh and his body was found a day later.

Authorities in Selma, California, believe Singh shot his family and then took his own life. Singh was found dead in the living room with an apparent gunshot wound to his head, the sheriff's officials said.

Singh called Selma police around 6:15 am on Saturday and told them that he had killed members of his family and was going to kill himself, quoted the Fresno County Sheriff's Office as saying.

A woman, believed to be Singh's wife, and a 3-year-old boy were found in the home's master bedroom dead of gunshot wounds to the head, officials said.

The body of a 15-year-old boy was discovered in another bedroom, also with a gunshot wound to the head. Selma police called the Fresno County Sheriff's Office to assist because they were aware that Singh had military experience in India, the report said.

Outside Singh's home, officers and deputies tried to contact him verbally and by telephone, but he did not respond. Neighbours were evacuated, and the sheriff's Special Weapons And Tactics team arrived.

A SWAT robot entered the home about 8 a.m. and revealed one injured person but did not find anyone else alive, Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims said.

The SWAT team members then entered the home and heard sounds coming from a bedroom, where they found a 17-year boy with severe head trauma. He was taken to Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno, where he was undergoing surgery. His condition was not known, but his injuries were considered life-threatening.

About a year ago, Selma police were called to the home to investigate a domestic violence incident. At the time, law enforcement officials discovered that Singh had a murder warrant from India, reported.

Selma police last had contact with Singh about two months ago when he called to complain that the media would not leave him alone because of the murder warrant, Mims said.

He said he "could not live like this," Mims said. It is unclear which media Singh was referring to. However at some point, Indian officials chose not to try to extradite him, Mims said, and police had no cause to hold him.

Alli Adan, a driver for a trucking company that Singh owned and operated, said he was shocked to hear of the alleged murder-suicide. "I couldn't believe it," Adan said, "because I didn't think he could do something like this."

Adan said Singh recently talked about being stressed over financial problems related to his company, Jay Truck Lines in Selma. Singh had about five trucks, Adan said.

But Adan said he spent time with Singh this past week, including Friday night, and Singh acted normally.

The case of suspected custodial killing of Andrabi in which major Singh is a prime accused, is pending before a court in Srinagar for a decade after the High Court had

ordered registration of a murder case in this regard.

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