A Major has been suspended and a Colonel removed from his command for their alleged involvement in the killing of three youths in a fake encounter in April in Kupwara district of Jammu and Kashmir.

“The Colonel has been removed from the command. The second officer [Major] has been suspended as of now and an inquiry has been ordered,” Lt. Gen. B S Jaiswal, chief of the Northern Command, said on Sunday.

Both Col. D.K. Pathania, Commanding Officer (CO) of 4 Rajput Regiment, and Major Upinder of the same regiment, were named as the main accused by the J&K Police in the April 30 Machil encounter case.

On April 30, the Army said they killed three infiltrators in the Machil sector along the Line of Control (LoC) and later claimed they were Pakistani terrorists.

Mohamad Shafi, Shehzad Ahmed and Riyaz Ahmed, all residents of Nadihal in Baramulla district, were allegedly lured to a border area and shot dead.

Following complaints from victims' relatives, a Territorial Army jawan and two others were arrested.

The Army ordered a probe into the killing after the police filed a report, accusing the Major of entering into a criminal conspiracy with some locals to eliminate the three youths by labelling them as terrorists.

Col. Pathania was asked not to leave the Valley till the inquiry was over, sources in the Army said. He was all ready to leave for Meerut where his regiment has been relocated.

Gen. Jaiswal said, “It [inquiry] will be totally transparent and the truth will be there.... The inquiry is on. Our genuine concern is to be transparent. This is the first step. And this should be the indicator that subsequently we will be coming out with the truth.”

This is the second time the Army is removing a serving officer from a command.

Colonel Gloria of 33 Rashtriya Rifles was removed for allegedly killing three boys who were playing cricket in a playground in Dudipora—Handwara in February 2006, three months after he took charge of the counter-insurgency unit.

Jawan's statement

In the Machil case, the police inquiry relied heavily on the statement of a trooper of the 161 Battalion of the Territorial Army in Gauntmullah, Baramulla. He told the investigators about the alleged involvement of Major Upinder.

Jawan Abbass was among three persons, including a former Special Police Officer, arrested by the police in the case.

The police have recorded the statements of the parents of the three slain youths after taking them to Kupwara.

Earlier, Chief Judicial Magistrate Sopore had recorded the statements of close relatives of the youth.

The Army action came after Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah met senior officials of the Army and police at a high-level meeting on Sunday.

Mr. Abdullah has made a strong pitch for amending the Armed Forces Special Powers Act to make it more transparent.

He is expected to raise this issue during the two-day visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here from Monday.