Admitting that the three youths who were killed in an encounter at Shopian on July 18 were missing labourers from Rajouri, as claimed by their families last month, the Army Friday said its probe had “prima facie” found that its troops exceeded powers under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) — and directed disciplinary proceedings against those “answerable”.
The Army had ordered a Court of Inquiry into the encounter last month after the three families came forward to say the youths were cousins — one of them was reportedly 16 years old — who had gone to Kashmir for work and not been in touch since July 17 night.
Inquiry ordered by the Army authorities into Op Amshipora has been concluded. The inquiry has brought out certain prima facie evidence indicating that during the operation, powers vested under the AFSPA 1990 were exceeded – Army statement on the Shopian encounter – @IndianExpress
— Naveed Iqbal (@NaveedIqbal) September 18, 2020
On Friday, Army spokesperson Col Rajesh Kalia said in a statement that the evidence collected by the inquiry has prima-facie indicated that “the three unidentified terrorists killed in Op Amshipora were Imtiyaz Ahmed, Abrar Ahmed and Mohd Ibrar, who hailed from Rajouri”.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Mohammad Yusuf, the father of Abrar Ahmed (25), said: “I want the bodies of all the three children who were close relatives. All the three children were innocent and they have been killed in cold blood. I want those responsible to be hanged.”
Yusuf also expressed concern over the delay in the DNA report. “Our samples were collected on August 13. The administration should intervene to get the report at the earliest, otherwise we will be compelled to launch a protest,” he said.
First step to gain trust
QUICK DISCIPLINARY action by the Army against those answerable for the killing of the three youths is the first step that will help the government in gaining people’s trust. The families of the youths had claimed they were innocent. Completion of DNA verification and a transparent police probe will be the next logical steps.
The Army said that while the DNA report is awaited and “involvement” of the three killed “with terrorism or related activities” is under investigation by the police, the inquiry has “brought out certain prima facie evidence indicating that during the operation, powers vested under the AFSPA 1990 were exceeded and the Do’s and Don’ts of Chief of Army Staff as approved by the Hon’ble Supreme Court have been contravened”.
The Army statement said: “Consequently, the competent disciplinary authority has directed to initiate disciplinary proceedings under the Army Act against those found prima-facie answerable.”
The encounter was questioned by various political parties in the Valley after which J&K L-G Manoj Sinha assured the victims’ families earlier this month that justice would be delivered.
On Friday, NC leader and former CM Omar Abdullah posted on Twitter: “The families of the three murdered men had continued to proclaim their innocence. Disciplinary action initiated by the army would suggest the army agrees with the families. The process must remain transparent & the guilty must face the full weight of the law.”
The families of the three murdered men had continued to proclaim their innocence. Disciplinary action initiated by the army would suggest the army agrees with the families. The process must remain transparent & the guilty must face the full weight of the law. https://t.co/Na4o15UspD
— Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) September 18, 2020
On July 18, the Army had claimed that three militants had been killed in an operation at Amshipora in Shopian. However, on the same day, J&K police distanced itself from the encounter and said in a statement that the input for the operation had come from the Army.
A month later, after coming across pictures of the “slain terrorists” on social media, the families of the three said they were labourers and that Mohd Ibrar, the youngest, was 16 years old.
On August 18, while setting up a probe into the killings, the Army said in a statement: “DNA samples have been collected from Rajouri under the aegis of JKP and sent for matching with the terrorists killed on 18 Jul 2020.”
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