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3 in uniform, 1 in grave

FEAR COMES TRUE BUT UNEXPECTED FINGER ON TRIGGER

A child wipes the tears of a mourner watching Khalid's funeral procession. Picture by Mohammad Abu Baker

Srinagar: Abdul Gaffar Malik's first son is in the police, the second a volunteer in the Territorial Army, the third again in the police and the fourth in the grave.

Malik's youngest son was killed on Wednesday evening by the same forces his three other sons are part of.

Residents said army troopers shot Khalid as the 22-year-old was shutting his shop, devastating a family that used to fear it might be harmed by militants for serving in the security forces.

An army spokesperson said the force had opened controlled fire at "an aggressive mob" in "self-defence" in Trehgam in north Kashmir's Kupwara district.

The government has ordered a probe by a magistrate, and the police have registered a case against the army.

On Thursday, the authorities clamped curfew in Trehgam following massive protests in the small pro- azadi town, the ancestral place of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front founder Maqbool Bhat who was hanged in Delhi's Tihar jail in 1984.

Khalid was the sixth civilian in the Valley to die in firing by the forces in the last five days, a disturbing drift that has picked up since the state came under governor's rule last month, reinforcing the notion that the forces were following an iron-fist policy.

"I always feared we might be targeted by the other side (militants) and thought we were safe from the army and the police," one of Khalid's brothers, who asked not to be named, told The Telegraph. "But the very opposite happened. They killed an innocent man."

Two of Khalid's older brothers - Waseem Gaffar and Talib Gaffar - are in the police, and were on duty elsewhere when the young man was shot. Another sibling, Asif Gaffar, is in the Territorial Army and was on leave at home preparing for postgraduate exams in English.

A relative said there wasn't much of a provocation for the troopers to fire. "There was a shutdown in the town on Wednesday (following a separatist call against civilian killings) but the market had opened in the evening and people were busy shopping," he said.

"Sensing trouble, the army started thrashing people to clear the road for a convoy. People started running and, fearing trouble, Khalid started shutting his shop. His shop is not even on the highway but on a link road and they fired at him from a distance."

Residents said Khalid was shot in the throat.

Khalid's family is confident the force will punish the guilty. "We have full faith in the force and we hope they will be punished," the relative said.

An army spokesperson said the force had opened controlled fire following heavy stone-throwing by a mob of around 30 to 40 youths.

"The patrol verbally cautioned the stone-pelters and thereafter fired two blank rounds to disperse the violent crowd. However, the mob didn't relent and the stone-throwing intensified, endangering the safety of the patrol."

The spokesperson said five soldiers were injured but provided no other details.

The other civilians who died in firing by the security forces over the past five days included a 16-year-old girl, Andleeb, and two young men, Irshad Majid, 20, and Shakir Ahmad, 22.

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