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Poonch: Army initiates Court of Inquiry as police lodges murder case over killing of 3 civilians

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The Army has initiated a Court of Inquiry as police lodged a murder case against unknown persons over the death of three civilians picked up for questioning by the force after three soldiers died in a terrorist attack in Poonch recently, official sources said on Monday. In a related development, a brigadier-level officer was shifted and action is being taken against three officers of 48 Rashtriya Rifles as the Army has taken a serious note of the incident which sparked allegations of custodial torture and widespread outrage.

The soldiers lost their lives when their vehicles were ambushed by terrorists at Dhatyar Morh between Dhera Ki Gali and Buffliaz in the Surankote area of Poonch on December 21.

Three civilians, aged between 27 and 42, were allegedly picked up by the Army for questioning following the attack and they were found dead on December 22. Video clips purportedly showing their torture were shared widely on social media.

In a post on X on December 23, the Additional Directorate General of Public Information (ADGPI) of the Indian Army said, “Search operations by the security forces are continuing in the area of operations after the incident of 21 Dec 23. Reports have been received regarding three civilian deaths in the area. The matter is under investigation. Indian Army stands committed to extending full support and cooperation in the conduct of investigations.”

Taking its investigation forward, the sources said the Army has initiated a Court of Inquiry into the alleged torture and the subsequent death of the three civilians.

A brigadier-level officer, incharge of the Surankote belt, was shifted, and action against other officers of the unit concerned will also be taken, the sources said. The counter-insurgency unit of the Army was in the news for wrong reasons in October also when one of its major-rank officers opened fire on his colleagues and exploded grenades inside the Neeli post camp near Thanamandi, leaving five personnel including three officers injured. The sources said police have also registered a case under section 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal code against unidentified accused army personnel.

“…after terror incident at DKG on December 21, army troops carried out searches in Topa Peer in buffliaz for the terrorists who escaped after the attack. During searches, Army troops detained a few local youth for questioning, reportedly three such youth namely Safeer Ahmad, Mohd Showkat and Shabir Ahmad succumbed to injuries.

“As such, cognizable offence under section 302 IPC is made out. On this information instant case stands registered. As the instant case is of special nature …special report will be submitted separately as investigation is taken up,” an official said quoting the FIR.

Mohd Sadiq, a relative of one of the deceased, said three men were picked up by the troops accompanied by policemen Mohd Rafiq and Mohd Rashid along with their sources Jagi and Ganesh in full public gaze.

“We want names of the concerned Army major, policemen and the army sources to be included in the FIR besides immediate shifting of the Rashtriya Rifles camp,” he said, adding “innocent persons were killed in cold blood and we want justice for them”.

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