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12 hour gunbattle in Kashmir turns out fake

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

Srinagar, India, Aug 9, IRNA -- In a major embarrassment for the security forces, a '12 hour long gunbattle', as reported by the police the other day, resulting in the death of a 'dreaded Lashkar-e-Taiba militant commander' has turned out to be fake.

Authorities here now confirm that the man killed in the alleged gunbattle with an army unit Sunday night was a mentally unstable civilian.

Two government forces personnel have been arrested in connection with the killing of the civilian who had been sought to have been passed off as a wanted divisional commander of the Lashkar-e-Taiba.

The victim who was branded as commander of Pakistan based Muslim militant group, the Lashkar-eTaiba, turned out to be a Hindu and has been identified as Ashok Kumar, said to have been mentally disturbed.

The Srinagar-based news agency, KNS, quoted the senior superintendent of the police (SSP) for Poonch, Ashkoor Wani, as having said that Kumar had been killed in a joint operation of the army and the police launched on the basis of information provided by the two forces personnel.

The spokesman of the army’s 16th Corps has confirmed that an innocent civilian had been killed under the pretext of a Lashkar commander in a joint operation by the army and the police in the Surankote area of southern Kashmir district of Poonch.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah told a New Delhi based news channel that two security personnel have been arrested for the alleged murder. He has admitted that the gunbattle may not have been real.

'We are still enquiring into the exact circumstances as to what happened. Preliminary information suggests to us that a local Territorial Army fellow and an SPO (Special Police Officer) had conspired to inform the local army unit about the presence of the foreign militant in Pooch,' Abdullah told NDTV.

He said the army acted on the information and launched an operation.

Meanwhile in a related development, India's apex court Monday termed the fake encounter killings as cold-blooded, brutal murders by people who are supposed to uphold the law and said that policemen guilty of such killings must be hanged.

Such cases are “rarest of rare”, the criteria for awarding capital punishment, a bench of justices Markandey Katju and Gyan Sudha Misra ruled.

“If crimes are committed by ordinary people, ordinary punishment should be given, but if the offence is committed by policemen, a “much harsher punishment should be given to them because they do an act totally contrary to their duties”, the bench added.

A bench said that police personnel as custodians of law were expected to protect people and not eliminate them as contract killers.

“Fake encounter killings by cops are nothing but cold-blooded brutal murder which should be treated as the rarest of rare offence and police personnel responsible for it should be awarded death sentence. They should be hanged,” Justice Katju, heading the Bench, said.

According to India's National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) at least 14 cases of fake encounters were reported from Jammu and Kashmir in past three years.

Official sources said 14 cases of alleged fake encounter registered by NHRC in Kashmir in past three years with the highest 11 cases registered in 2010-11.

The relatives of the disappeared in Kashmir however say the revelations of civilians' killings by security forces in staged encounters are just 'tip of an iceberg'.

The Association of parents of Disappeared Persons Kashmir said that about 10,000 people have been subjected to enforced disappearance in Indian administered Kashmir in last two decades.

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