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Valley militant kill claim exposed as fake

Srinagar, Aug. 8: A special police officer and a Territorial Army jawan landed in custody today for a fake encounter death after residents of a Jammu village refused to bury an “uncircumcised militant” security forces had claimed was a top Lashkar-e-Toiba commander.

A red-faced police conceded the slain man was a mentally deranged person, the embarrassing admission coming a day after a joint claim by the army and the police that they had eliminated the dreaded Abu Usman in a Saturday-night encounter.

Usman is said to be the Lashkar divisional commander for Jammu’s Poonch and Rajouri districts. The forces also claimed to have seized a pistol and some ammunition.

Poonch police chief Ashkoor Wani said he had ordered his men to send the body for an autopsy after the villagers in Surankote refused to bury the man. “During investigations we found the pistol was rusted and could not fire, which increased our suspicion,” the SSP added.

Wani said the slain man was an “insane” person who was picked up from Rajouri. He said the operation was carried out by SPO Noor Hussain and Territorial Army jawan Abdul Majeed, which also trashes yesterday’s claim that the army’s 25 Rashtriya Rifles and the police were involved in the encounter. “We are investigating what prompted them to pick the man up,” Wani added.

Major General G.S. Shergill, general officer commanding of the army’s counter-insurgency Romeo force, said the SPO and the jawan planned the killing for rewards. “The SPO wanted to become a permanent employee and the jawan did it for monetary benefits,” Shergill said in Jammu.

Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah, whose government is already battling allegations of a custody death in Sopore, said Hussain and Majeed both charged with murder had been arrested. “I assure that the law will follow its own course,” Omar said in Srinagar.

The fake encounter almost coincided with a Supreme Court observation that staged killings were nothing but “cold blooded brutal murder” and the police personnel involved should be “hanged” for such offences which should be treated as “rarest of rare”.

The observation came as the court ordered the surrender of two Rajasthan IPS officers accused of involvement in the fake encounter killing of an alleged gangster.

Wani said the SPO and the jawan had informed the police about the presence of militants in Surankote on Saturday but a team could not reach the spot as it involved a two-to-three-hour trek. He said he had talked to an army major, who reportedly told him his unit was asked by the accused to keep half a kilometre away from the site of the operation. “He (major) said a message was flashed to him (later) that the militant was killed,” Wani said.

The army has also ordered a probe.

Wani said there was a dispute over whether the slain man was circumcised or not. “Local residents insist he was uncircumcised but the post-mortem shows he was circumcised but it was not properly done,” the SSP said.

This isn’t the first time security forces in Kashmir have come under the glare over a fake encounter.

Some years ago, several police officers, including a superintendent, were arrested after the lid was blown off a fake encounter scam in which innocent Kashmiris were killed and passed off as foreign militants by security forces for rewards and promotions.

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