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Protests in Kashmir over fake encounter case

Last updated on: May 29, 2010 23:12 IST

The police fired in the air and lobbed tear gas shells after protests erupted in Srinagar on Saturday during the funeral of the three men allegedly killed in a fake encounter in April.

Slogan-shouting mourners marched with the three men's bodies, which were exhumed on Friday and buried in the ancestral graveyard in Nadihal-Panzallah in Baramulla. The police fired in the air and lobbed teargas shells as protestors clashed with security personnel, officials said.

The bodies were exhumed on Friday on the direction of Deputy Commissioner (Kupwara) Showkat Ahmad Mir, after the state government ordered a magisterial inquiry into the episode.

"There is no question of a cover up and nobody (found guilty) will be spared," Defence Minister A K Antony said, adding that his ministry will fully cooperate with the Jammu and Kashmir police's probe into the alleged fake encounter.

The Jammu and Kashmir police have arrested three persons, including an army jawan, for the alleged fake encounter in Machil sector of north Kashmir on April 30. The police arrested Abbas Shah, the territorial army jawan, Basharat Lone and Abdul Hamid Bhat after registering a case of murder against them.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said his government was committed to ensuring that the guilty are punished in case of a wrongdoing. The magisterial inquiry headed by the divisional commissioner of Kashmir has been ordered to bring out the facts in a transparent manner.

The opposition People's Democratic Party said such incidents were 'dangerous' as they could hamper the dialogue process in Jammu and Kashmir, which was expected during the upcoming visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to the state. PDP Leader Mufti Mohammad Sayeed renewed the demand for the withdrawal of the army and revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.

Hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani rejected the magisterial probe into the killing and demanded an investigation by the United Nations into the incident.

The incident took place on April 30 when the Rajputana Rifles of Army claimed to have shot dead three militants who were attempting to enter the valley from across the border. However, the claim of the army was contested by the family members of Muhammad Shafi, Shehzad Ahmed and Riyaz Ahmed, who said the deceased were not militants.

A senior police officer confirmed the arrest of the trooper and two civilians. A case of abduction and murder has been registered against them.

He said that the police was also searching for the army major allegedly involved in the killing of the trio as the unit he belonged to has already moved out of the state. 

The officer said, "Abbas, along with Bashir Ahmad Lone, a former special police officer and Abdul Hamid Bhat, lured the three civilians to work as porters for the army in the Machil sector on the LoC."

Thereafter, the defence spokesman had said that the three infiltrators were killed in Machil sector on April 30.

The bodies of the slain persons were later handed over by the army to the local police for burial. The police buried the bodies in north Kashmir's Kalaroos village graveyard as 'unidentified militants'.

The killing of the three civilians has sent shockwaves across Kashmir.

The shock is deeper in their native village, where thousands of people on Saturday blocked a highway by placing the coffins of the slain persons and demanded the arrest of the army men involved in the killing.

The police fired warning shots and teargas to disperse thousands of villagers shouting pro-freedom slogans.

The protesting villagers indulged in heavy stone pelting on the police and the clashes continued till today afternoon, leaving ten injured.

An angry mob in Nadihal village torched the house of Bashir Ahmad Lone, the former SPO who has since been arrested in connection with the murders.

With additional inputs from PTI

Mukhtar Ahmad In Srinagar