In another major embarrassment to the security establishment and the coalition government of Jammu and Kashmir, a Special Police Officer (SPO) and a Territorial Army soldier are believed to have stage-managed an encounter killing of a mentally retarded civilian, who they claimed was the “divisional commander” of the Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Official sources told The-Hindu that the civilian was picked up by SPO Abdul Majid and Territorial Army soldier Noor Hussain and taken to the forest in Surankot in the border district of Poonch on Saturday. They told the police and the 25 Rashtriya Rifles about the presence of the “dreaded terrorist” in a hutment in the area. Subsequently, an operation was launched to eliminate him.

The sources said he was killed instantly, but both the police and the Army continued firing for many hours. “His face was riddled with bullets, which would mean that he was killed from a short distance,” a informed source said.

When the body was being taken for the final rites, it was found that the deceased was not a Muslim. “People informed the police,” the sources said. They immediately questioned two informers. They told the police that he was a mentally retarded person whom they nabbed and arranged to be killed. The SPO said he wanted to be regularised as a constable and the soldier wanted a cash reward of Rs 2 lakh.

Ironically, an officer of the rank of Brigadier briefed the media on Sunday and declared that the “militant” was Abdu Usman, a “divisional commander” of the LeT. He also said that a pistol, a pair of binoculars and other materials were recovered from his possession.

SSP Poonch Ashkoor Wani said that both the SPO and the soldier were arrested and a case under Section 302 was registered against them. “Preliminary investigation is on and prima facie it is established that it was a fake encounter.” But he maintained that the identity of the civilian was yet to be established. He confirmed that the deceased was a Hindu.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah condemned the killing. A probe had been ordered, he said.