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Army court of inquiry begins probe in Shopian encounter

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Srinagar, Aug 18: An army court of inquiry on Tuesday began recording statements of witnesses in connection with the killing of three alleged militants in an encounter last month in Shopian in south Kashmir, following allegations by families in Rajouri area of Jammu region that as many of their kin were missing from the same place.

Srinagar-based Defence spokesperson Colonel Rajesh Kalia asked additional civil witnesses to depose before the court of inquiry.

According to sources, the inquiry is being headed by a Brigadier rank officer as the unit involved in the encounter was headed by a Colonel.

The incident took place on July 18 when the army claimed to have killed three militants at Ashimpora in the higher reaches of Shopian in south Kashmir.

However, little over two weeks thereafter, missing complaints were lodged by the families of three youths, working as labourers in apple and walnut orchards, who had disappeared from the same region and they had last talked to them on July 17.

Colonel Kalia in his statement said the high-level court of inquiry into ‘Operation Amshipora’ in Shopian was under progress.

“Statements of key witnesses are being recorded and progress is being monitored closely. Additional civil witnesses are being asked to depose before the court of inquiry,” he said.

The spokesperson said DNA samples have been collected from Rajouri by the Jammu and Kashmir Police and sent for matching with those of the alleged “terrorists” killed on July 18.

Col Kalia said the army is committed to “ethical conduct of all counter terrorist operations”.

“Cases where doubts are raised are investigated under due process as per the law of the land. Since the case is under investigation, further details will be shared periodically, as appropriate without affecting due legal process,” he said.

The relatives of three youths, belonging to Dhar Sakri village of Rajouri, had lodged a written missing persons report in the local police station after they lost contact with them on July 17.

In their complaint, they informed the police that they had last spoken to the three on July 17 when the youths had informed their families that they had got a room at Ashimpora in Shopian.

The same place was the site of the encounter the next day and since then there has been no report about the three, the families said in their complaint.

The DNA samples of the family members of the three boys were collected in a government hospital at Rajouri on August 13 in the presence of a police investigation team sent from Srinagar.

Three boys, Mohammad Imtiyaz and Ibrar Ahmed, both residents of Kathuni Mohalla of Dharsakri village of Rajouri, and Mohammad Ibrar, a resident of Tarkassi village of Rajouri, left their homes to work as labourers in Kashmir’s Shopian and went out of contact with their families after July 17 late evening.

The father of Imtiyaz, one of the missing persons, was seen on social media pleading for a visit to Kashmir and exhuming the bodies of his son and others for a proper burial in Rajouri.

He even went on to say that if any of the three was remotely connected to militant organisations, he was ready to face the consequences.

The Army has already initiated an inquiry into the ‘encounter’ carried out by its troops in Amshipora village of Shopian district.

Taking note of the social media inputs, the army instituted an investigation into the encounter, it said. (With PTI inputs)

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