Srinagar, India, Dec 30 (efe-epa).- Security forces in India-administered Kashmir on Wednesday gunned down three alleged militants, sparking outrage and allegations that the troops had staged a gunfight to hide civilian killings.
“Three militants have been killed in an overnight operation in the Lawaypora area of Srinagar,” an officer at the police control room told EFE on the condition of anonymity.
The authorities claimed that they had seized arms and ammunition from the site of the encounter.
However, the families of the deceased gathered at the police headquarters a few hours later, claiming that these three were their “innocent relatives and were killed in a fake gunfight.”
The three men have been identified as Aijaz Maqbool and Athar Mushtaq of the southern Pulwama district and Zubair Ahmad of its neighboring Shopian district,
“I swear that yesterday at 10 am, he (Aijaz) had tea with me, we don’t know from where he was picked and killed later,” Aijaz’s grandfather Bashir Ahmad Ganai told reporters.
“The families of Athar and Zubair also claimed that they were innocent students and had left their houses on Tuesday to get admission in a private educational institute.
The police said in a statement that it would offer more details after carrying out a “thorough” probe into the incident, although refuting the families’ claims.
“The three killed terrorists were not mentioned in our list of terrorists, yet two of them are hardcore associates of terrorists. One was a relative of top insurgent commander Rayees Kachroo, who was killed in 2017. The third might have joined militant ranks very recently,” it added.
The incident comes four days after the police charged a captain of the Indian army and two other people with killing three workers in the Amshipora village of Shopian district on July 18 and passing it off as a gunfight with terrorists.
The army issued a statement on the killings admitting that its soldiers had exceeded their powers under the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act.
The AFSPA provides the military legal immunity for using force in the case of disturbances and carry out arrests without warrants, although the troops have been time and again accused by rights groups of carrying out extra-judicial killings.
The idyllic Himalayan territory of Kashmir is the only region in India with a majority Muslim population and a strong separatist sentiment, which has been stoked further after New Delhi decided to revoke its semi-autonomous status last year.
Pakistan claims sovereignty over the entire region ever since the Indian sub-continent was divided on religious lines in 1947 along with the end of British colonial rule. India has accused Pakistan of sponsoring cross-border terrorism and backing separatism. EFE-EPA