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Curfew in Sopore
Murder case against troops
n CM promises ‘action against guilty’
n Army claims militants attacked jawans
Kumar Rakesh
Tribune News Service

Sopore, February 22
As public protests in Sopore gained momentum over the killing of two youths in army firing yesterday, the authorities today clamped a curfew in the township. Sopore SP BS Tooti said they had registered a case of murder against army personnel.

Confronted with perhaps his biggest challenge since he took office, CM Omar Abdullah, who had promised a policy of no-tolerance against human rights violations during his campaign, has also ordered a magisterial enquiry and asked the inquiry officer to submit a report in 15 days. “Exemplary punishment will be given to those found guilty,” Abdullah said.

There were clashes in Sopore between protesters and policemen and at least 20 persons were injured in these incidents since yesterday.

The Army, which did not make any statement yesterday, claimed today that the personnel of 22 Rashtriya Rifles were attacked by militants when they were searching a bus and the two died in a crossfire. They had specific information about the presence of militants in Tujar village and were fired upon by them during search, a spokesperson said. One civilian, he added, died in militants’ fire and another was killed in firing from army personnel which also left one person injured.

However, neither any militant nor any army person suffered any bullet injury in the incident.

The accounts of locals and some security officials, who spoke off the record, suggest that a confrontation between a huge crowd, which was collecting to celebrate the birth anniversary of a revered local saint, Hazrat Makhdoom Sahib, and army personnel might have led to the incident. Bashir Ahmad, a local resident, said many youths were shouting separatist slogans and throwing stones at army personnel, besides abusing them.

Army personnel were frisking people and many persons were abusing and throwing stones at them once they were past the security check. A police official said local army personnel claimed that they suspected militants’ presence in one such abusive gathering and opened fire when attacked by them.

The local residents have, though, dismissed any claims of militants' presence and accused army personnel of pressing triggers just to teach locals a lesson. “The Army is simply trying to justify a wanton act. If militants were there and they attacked the Army, where are all militants. Why a militant or army jawan did not sustain any bullet injuries while three innocent persons were shot?” asked Bashir Ahmad.

An army spokesperson said a high-level court of inquiry had been ordered into the incident.

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