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Updated: June 11, 2012 12:37 IST

Ex-Army officer, wanted for murder of Kashmir lawyer, kills family, self in U.S.

AP
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Avtar Singh
AP Avtar Singh

A former Indian Army officer wanted in the 1996 killing of a human rights lawyer shot and killed his wife and two of their children in their California home before apparently committing suicide, authorities said.

A 17-year-old believed to be the man's son also was shot in the Saturday morning attack and was “barely alive,” Fresno County Sheriff's Deputy Chris Curtice said.

The ex-officer, Maj. Avtar Singh, had been arrested in the central California city last year after his wife said he choked her, and the Indian government sought his extradition days after that in the 1996 death of Jalil Andrabi.

But he remained free, for reasons that were not immediately clear. Andrabi's brother and lawyer blamed New Delhi, saying Maj. Singh's family would still be alive if the government had tried harder to bring him to justice.

‘Failure of justice'

“These lives could have been saved if a trial of Maj. Avtar Singh was conducted on time,” said Andrabi's brother, Arshad. “We have lost that chance now. He was a known murderer and we are appalled that he was even shielded in the United States. It's a failure of justice at all levels.”

Maj. Singh, who owned a trucking company in Selma, called police around 6.15 a.m. on Saturday and told them that he had just killed four people, Mr. Curtice said. He added that a sheriff's SWAT (Special Weapons And Tactics) team was called in to assist because of Maj. Singh's military background and the charges against him.

When the SWAT team entered the home they found the bodies of Maj. Singh, a woman believed to be his wife and two children, aged 3 and 15, Mr. Curtice said. All appeared to have died from gunshot wounds.

The 17-year-old suffered severe head trauma and underwent surgery at a hospital where he remained in intensive care, Mr. Curtice said.

Maj. Singh, 47, was arrested by Selma police in February 2011 when his wife reported that he had choked her, Selma Police Chief Myron Dyck said shortly after that arrest. Police then discovered that he was being sought in India, but Mr. Dyck said at the time that he could not keep Maj. Singh in custody on the murder charge without a warrant from international authorities.

Several days later, India requested that the United States arrest and extradite him. It wasn't clear why Maj. Singh had remained free since the request. A request for comment from the Consulate-General of India in San Francisco was not immediately returned.

Mr. Dyck didn't immediately return a call seeking comment about the 2011 arrest, and Selma police referred questions about the apparent murder-suicide to Fresno County Sheriff's officials.

Jalil Andrabi was killed at the height of protests in Kashmir. Andrabi disappeared in March 1996 in Srinagar. His body was recovered 19 days later in a river. He had been shot in the head, and his eyes were gouged out.

A police investigation blamed Maj. Singh and his men for that killing and also accused Maj. Singh of involvement in the killings of six other Kashmiri men.

He had been charged in Kashmir only with Andrabi's killing. Kashmir police had sought permission from the Centre for Maj. Singh's prosecution in the six other killings.

Maj. Singh fled India after he was accused of killing Andrabi. Hafizullah Mir, the human rights lawyer, said he was tracked to California in 2009 with the help of the Canadian Centre for International Justice, a human rights advocacy group, but New Delhi did not pursue extradition until after his 2011 arrest.

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It seems people are already assuming guilt on the part of Major Singh. We do not know if he was indeed guilt of the murder unless a court had convicted him of the crime. I can try to understand his anguish and the fact that he was made a scapegoat. He was likely afraid that that he would held guilty irrespective of the facts to protect the higher up officers and the elected politicians. He was likely afraid of the future of his family in the event he was sent to an Indian jail. If we are to prosecute people like Major Singh then we also need to do the same of the whole chain of command and the politicians who have condoned any wrong doing on the part of the army during those dark days and the trying times. It is easy for us to pass judgement now when the Kashmir insurgency has been mitigated greatly due to the sacrifices made by Indian security forces both physical death or injury and moral failings in the few instances.

from:  Jitendra Dutta
Posted on: Jun 11, 2012 at 20:57 IST

Appropriately enough, a violent end to a violent man.But sad to see the wife and the kids entangled in this viciousness.

from:  Sachi Mohanty
Posted on: Jun 11, 2012 at 17:34 IST

Real face of Indian occupation in Kashmir!

from:  muzafar
Posted on: Jun 11, 2012 at 16:15 IST

Had the government been serious in arresting the murderer, his family would have been alive.

from:  Syed Mujtaba Ahmed
Posted on: Jun 11, 2012 at 12:27 IST

He brought dishonour to our Great Army known for men of character.

from:  Anish Khindri
Posted on: Jun 11, 2012 at 12:21 IST

Wanted for murder of 6 people in Kashmir....roaming free in US (how did
he even get a Visa ?...

Really sad for the children...could have been avoided if draconian laws
like AFSPA are revoked and the guilty are immediately punished....Don't
see that happening anytime though!

from:  Nauman
Posted on: Jun 11, 2012 at 11:14 IST

Are Indian authorities really capable of handling such issues? The inability of finding the whereabouts of the recent incident in which one Indian citizen Fasih Mahmood, an engineer from Darbhanga was picked up (on May 13, 2012) allegedly by Saudi police in the presence of Indian officials proves the same. Would it be the same fate if an American citizen might go the similar way as Maj. Singh has gone? Isn't it the responsibility of Indian government to take care of its citizen's interest living abroad?

from:  Moin Khan
Posted on: Jun 11, 2012 at 11:02 IST

Despite Canadian centre for International Justice tracked down this alleged murderer, the Indian UPA regime has failed to bring this guy to face the Law.

from:  Shiva
Posted on: Jun 11, 2012 at 07:11 IST
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