Civilian killed in Army firing in Kupwara, probe ordered

Family alleges cold-blooded murder

A civilian was killed when the Army allegedly fired at him during an ambush laid down last night to trap militants in a remote village of Kupwara district, the police said.
However, the Army said the victim identified as Asif Iqbal Bhat, 22, a resident of Thandipora village, was killed in the cross-firing between soldiers and militants, a claim refuted by locals. Following fierce clashes in the village that left at least eight policemen, including Kupwara Superintendent of Police injured, the police registered a case and took up the investigation, a police official said. The authorities suspended internet services in a few major towns of the district to prevent protests from spreading further. The family alleged that the Army killed Asif, a driver by profession, in cold blood. According to them, the slain left home around 10.20 pm after a local resident of adjoining Batpora village requested Asif’s father on phone to send him with a vehicle to pick him up from there.
“He left home and after just a few minutes we heard a volley of gun shots. The neighbours rushed outside along with us. We spotted Asif lying in a pool of blood on the ground around 50 yards away from the spot where he used to park his vehicle,” said Raja Begum, mother of the slain. “He could not speak due to a few bullet wounds, including one on his head. We shifted him to hospital but he breathed his last on the way,” she added. Following the registration of a police case, villagers held his funeral. In a statement, the Army said the civilian was killed in the cross-firing. “The Army had placed ambushes to maintain surveillance over the area. At 22:55 pm, an ambush party observed suspicious movement of three persons near a nullah. The individuals were challenged by troops, but they did not respond,” the Srinagar-based defence spokesman said.
“Thereafter, terrorists opened fire at the Army ambush party which was retaliated. In the crossfire, Asif Iqbal Bhat was killed due to a gunshot wound,” he added. “An FIR has been lodged in Kralpora police station and investigations taken up. The police and civil administration will provide all help to the bereaved family,” the spokesman said. Meanwhile, the J&K Government ordered a magisterial inquiry into the killing of a civilian during an exchange of fire between Army personnel and militants in the Kupwara district on Sunday.