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Sopore girls part of Christian group,says Kerala evangelist

But police in Kashmir say no missionary activity in area where killings took place.

Written by Shaju Philip | Thiruvananthapuram |
February 11, 2011 3:28:37 am

The case of the murder of two teenaged sisters by suspected militants in Sopore has a new twist. Paul Ciniraj Mohammad,a Christian evangelist based in Kerala’s Kottayam district,has claimed that “the girls were active participants of an underground Christian group.” 

J&K Police,however,termed the evangelist’s claim as “false”. They said their investigation found the claim to be factually incorrect” and that “there are no missionaries active in Sopore.”     

“I had seen the girls during my visit to Sopore a few years ago,“ Paul Ciniraj Mohammad told The Indian Express .  “The girls were not converts. They had started reading the New Testament of the Bible. I suspect that the militants might have come to know about the group and the girls’ involvement in its activities,” he said.

Ciniraj,who runs an evangelical group,Salem Voice Ministries,said the Christian group was working among Muslims in a secret manner. “Only three or four members of the group are converts,whereas others are dedicated believers in Christianity. An evangelist from Kerala had been operating in Sopore,” he said.

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“The girls were illiterate. But the Christian group had given them basic education to enable them to read the Bible. The Sopore group is an independent Pentecost one,not affiliated to any church,” he said.

Ciniraj,himself a converted Christian,preaches the Gospel only among Muslims. A native of Thiruvananthapuram,Ciniraj said he converted to Christianity when he was in college,three decades ago.  

J&K Police,however,flatly denied Ciniraj’s claim. “We did investigate it discreetly as soon as we heard about this claim. We didn’t find any truth in it,” Superintendent of Police,Sopore,Altaf Khan said. “There are no missionaries working anywhere in Sopore area. There is absolutely nothing that could suggest any such thing”. 

Police said that Lashkar-e-Toiba militants were behind the killings. Both United Jihad Council—a conglomerate of militant groups operating in J&K—and Lashkar denied it. “These innocent girls have been killed by the Indian agencies to create confusion among the people and to defame the Lashkar-e-Toiba,” the Pakistan-based chief spokesman of the outfit,Abdullah Ghaznavi,said in a statement to a local news agency. Lashkar posters that appeared in the town had claimed responsibility for the killings. The Lashkar  spokesman said the outfit was also probing the killings. “We have ordered a probe at our own level,” Ghaznavi said. “Whosoever is found involved (in these killings) will be handed over to the people of Sopore.”

On January 31, Akhtara,19 and her younger sister Arifa,17 were killed by suspected militants,who dragged the sisters out of their home at 7.45 pm and shot them dead. According to the family,Akhtara was cooking and chatting with her mother and younger brother Ghulam Jeelani,16,while Arifa was upstairs. Their father was in the mosque. “A gunman barged in. His face was covered by a black muffler. Only his eyes were visible. Two others followed him,” said Jeelani. “They were speaking Urdu. One spoke a few words in Kashmiri.”

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