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All those killed in Shopian firing linked to militancy: Army

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‘Investigation will reveal connection of slain civilians with militants’

Srinagar, Mar 05: All those killed in the shootout in south Kashmir’s Shopian district yesterday night were linked to militancy and the soldiers acted in self-defence,  the Army claimed today.

Recounting the events of the shootout, in which six people, including two militants, were killed last night, a defence spokesperson said soldiers deployed at the mobile vehicle check post (MVCP) in Trenz-Pinjoora road near Pahnoo village were fired upon by occupants in two speeding vehicles.

At around 8 pm, two speeding vehicles were seen approaching the checkpoint from the direction of Trenz village, he said.

“The vehicles continued to move despite being signalled to stop by the troops. The soldiers flashed search lights towards the approaching vehicles, but the occupants opened heavy firing from both the vehicles,”  the spokesperson added.

“Our troops, in self-defence, responded to the same with fire. In the ensuing gunfight, one terrorist firing from one of the vehicles was hit and he fell off the vehicle. The vehicle veered off the road towards the nala (stream) and the second vehicle sped off,” he said.

The body of one militant — Amir Ahmad Malik — was recovered. A Category C terrorist, Malik was part of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) since July last year. War-like stores, including one AK-74, three magazines and 88 rounds were recovered from the dead terrorist,” the spokesperson added.

“Three more bodies were found in the vehicle during the search. These individuals were accompanying the terrorist,” he claimed.

At around 9 am  today, the body of another militant, identified as Ashiq Hussain Bhat of LeT, was found from the apple orchards of Saidapora village. Bhat is also “linked” with the same chain of events at Pahnoo village, the spokesperson claimed.

He said “the second vehicle, from which the Army personnel were fired upon,” was found this morning near Pinjoora, about 200 metres away from the shootout scene.

“One more individual was found dead (in the car). He has been identified as Gowhar Ahmad Lone,” he added.

Meanwhile, in a press conference today, Army said an investigation will ascertain the “level of cooperation of slain civilians with the militants” killed in Pahnoo village.

“No doubt they were civilians but investigations will reveal their role with militants,” said an army official.

Addressing a press conference here after Shopian killings, 12 sector RR Harbeer Singh and Col. 44 NS Negi in Balpora Shopian told reporters that at around 8:00 pm on Sunday army were placing mobile vehicle check post (MVCP) along Trenz-Pinjoora road in Panhoo area of Shopian when two speedy vehicles were coming towards army patrol.

“Army troopers on duty signaled them to stop which they refused and instead opened heavy firing on army personnel. Army in retaliation killed one militant instantly while another militant died on the way while trying to escape,” they said.

“During the initial searches we recovered the body of militant which fell down from the vehicle. Later, three more bodies were found in another vehicle. We have also recovered one AK 47 rifle, three magazines and 88 rounds,” they said.

The army officials said that on Monday morning the body of another militant was found in Saidpora area of Shopian.

At around 9 a.m  on Monday , body of another LeT militant, identified as Ashiq Hussain Bhat, of Rakh Kapran, was found from apple orchards of Saidpura village, they said.

Few minutes later one more dead body was recovered from a vehicle in Pinjoora. It was identified as that of Gowhar Ahmad Lone of Mullu Chitrigam — taking the death toll to six.

When asked by reporters whether Army had specific inputs about the militant attack, the officials said: “We had no specific inputs about this attack but yes, we knew about the increasing movement of militants in the area.”

Local residents and family of the deceased youths have refuted the Army version of the incident, alleging that they do not have links with militancy and were killed in an “indiscriminate firing by the soldiers”.

Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has also said that the four men were killed in a “crossfire”. The ruling PDP MLA from Shopian, Mohammad Yousuf Bhat, has called for a judicial probe into the incident saying that “no circumstances can justify these civilian killings”.

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