Army promises fast track probe; police register murder case

The bodies of three youths of Rafiabad, killed in an alleged fake encounter by the Army, were exhumed on Friday. A murder case has been registered by the police.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has taken up the issue with the Army, which has promised a fast track probe.

Deputy Commissioner Kupwara Showkat Ahmad Mir told The Hindu that the residents had alleged that those buried were three youths from their place. The three were identified as Mohammad Shafi, Shehzad Ahmad and Riyaz Ahmad. The Army claimed that they were militants and killed on April 30 in “an encounter” as they were trying to cross the Line of Control in Machil sector.

“At around 3 a.m. today [April 30] morning, alert troops deployed on the Line of Control observed three terrorists trying to cross over. On being challenged, they opened fire on our troops. In the ensuing gunfight, all three were killed and three AK rifles recovered, besides other war-like stores. On checking their belongings, two more AK rifles and a pistol were recovered, besides other items,' the Army had claimed.

The three, according to a missing report lodged at the Panzala police station, had disappeared from their homes on April 27. Despite a search by the family they could not be traced. However, a local newspaper carried a report that the three youths had been killed in a fake encounter.

Families of the youths later alleged that the former Special Police Officer, Bashir Ahmad, and his accomplice, Fayaz Ahmad, had abducted the three and handed them over to the Army which killed them in a fake encounter. Ghulam Muhammad Khan, father of Shehzad Ahmad said he was shocked to see the picture of his son in the newspaper. He alleged that the Army killed his son for rewards and medals.

As public pressure mounted the authorities agreed to the exhumation. After identification the bodies were handed over to the families. “All the three are civilians” a police officer confirmed. The incident has caused outrage in the area, with people demanding stern action against the culprits.

Superintendent of Police Sopore Altaf Khan told The Hindu that earlier a case had been registered based on the missing report but “now we have added section 302 and registered a murder case.” The people involved are being identified, he added.

Mr. Omar Abdullah expressed his concern to the GOC 15 Corps Lt. General N.C. Marwah who called on him here. The GOC assured the Chief Minister that the Army would cooperate fully with all investigating agencies/enquiries set up by the State government. He also informed the Chief Minister that based on the preliminary investigation of the police, Army Commander (Northern Command) Lt. General B.S. Jaswal has ordered a high level internal enquiry.

The GOC assured the Chief Minister that the Army will not cover up any incident where human rights violations are proved. Mr. Abdullah also ordered a magisterial probe into the incident. The Opposition People's Democratic Party demanded a probe into the incident.