11:55 pm - Friday November 6, 2015

Pathribal fake encounter : Army says no proof its personnel killed civilians

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Jammu –  The Army has closed an investigation against its personnel accused of killing five civilians in a fake encounter in Pathribal, Jammu and Kashmir, in 2000, saying there is no evidence against them. The decision has been slammed by the state’s Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, who has asked his government to explore a legal response.

“The evidence recorded could not establish a prime facie case against any of the accused persons. However, it was clearly established that it was a joint operation by the police and the Army based on specific intelligence,” the Army said in a statement on Thursday.

Omar Abdullah said he was “extremely disappointed with the decision” and tweeted this morning, “A matter as serious as #Pathribal can’t be closed or wished away like this, more so with the findings of the CBI so self-evident.”

Five people were killed in a shootout at Pathribal in south Kashmir on March 26, 2000. The army had claimed that those shot dead were militants, but when their bodies were exhumed after massive outrage and protests, they were identified as innocent civilians.

The CBI was handed over the case in January 2003. In 2006, the investigation agency alleged that five officials and jawans of the Seven Rashtriya Rifles – Brig Ajay Saxena, Lt Col Brahendra Pratap Singh, Major Saurabh Sharma, Major Amit Saxena and Subedar Idrees Khan – killed five innocent civilians claiming they were terrorists.

The Army had claimed that those killed were mercenaries who massacred 35 members of the Sikh community at Chittisinghpora in south Kashmir on March 21 while then US President Bill Clinton was on a visit to India.

The 18-page CBI chargesheet stated that following the gunning down of the Sikh community members, the Army unit based in the area was under “tremendous psychological pressure to show results.”

After the CBI probe and an order from the Supreme Court in March, 2012, the Army had taken over the case.

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