The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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3 children of family killed in Poonch

Jammu, Dec. 22: Armed terrorists massacred three children, aged between four and 12, in a village close to Surankote in Poonch district late last night.

Police said militants invaded the home of a carpenter, Munshi Khan, in Bamprot village and opened indiscriminate fire from their automatic weapons, killing three of his sons, Arafat, 4, Asir Mehmood, 6, and Nizarat Hussain, 12.

Khan was also injured in the shooting along with his two tenants, including a woman, when they tried to save the children.

Although reluctant to speculate on the motive behind the killings, the police said two months ago, terrorists had wiped out an entire family related to Khan, who was a member of the Special Operations Group.

The Special Operations Group was raised in 1994 to combat terrorism. But the state government under chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed recently merged it with the state police, following widespread human rights allegations against the outfit.

Militants also gunned down three young girls in Batiya village in Rajouri on Thursday night, four members of a family in Sopore and a middle-aged woman in Rajouri the following day. A newly-elected legislator of the ruling People’s Democratic Party, Abdul Aziz Mir, was killed in his native village in Pampore on Friday afternoon.

In a related incident, security forces killed at least five militants in the Malhaan forest area in Poonch. The joint army-police operation began this morning on a tip-off on the presence of terrorists near Bamprot. Two security men were also wounded in the campaign.

While the identity of the militants is yet to be established, the police have recovered arms and ammunition from the spot.

“We are still ascertaining the facts,” said a senior police official, who denied commenting on whether the slain militants were behind the massacre.

Hurriyat leader freed

Continuing the release of political detenues, the Jammu and Kashmir government has set free Hurriyat leader Bashir Ahmad Bhat after almost a year, official sources said today.

Bhat, the vice-chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, who was arrested on January 13 under the Public Safety Act, was released from the joint interrogation centre in Srinagar last evening, reports PTI.

Bhat spent most of his detention period in Kot-Balwal jail in Jammu from where he, along with another Hurriyat leader, Sheikh Abdul Rashid, was released on November 13 after expiry of the term of their detention under the Act. But they were re-arrested soon after and lodged at the Talu Talab police station in Jammu.

While Bhat was let off last evening, Sheikh, a spokesman of the Hurriyat, was sent to the Safakadal police station, where a case under unlawful activities was pending against him since 1991, the sources said. He is likely to get bail within a day or two.

India has completed the process of relocating of troops, amassed on its border with Pakistan earlier this year.

“Yes, the process of relocating troops is complete,” army chief-designate Lieutenant General N.C. Vij, who is currently vice-chief of the army staff, told reporters here today.

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