February 1998 News

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Nine killed, 40 injured as troops open 'indiscriminate' fire

1st February 1998

Close on the heels of Sunday's massacre, nine more civilians, including a woman, have fallen prey to militancy in Jammu and Kashmir.

Unlike January 25 when it was terrorist bullets that claimed lives, this time the villagers fell to security forces's fire.

The incident occurred on Friday, the day of Eid, in the remote village of Marwah in Jammu's Doda district. Officials said about 15 army men had mounted a house to house search there. When the locals resisted, they 'panicked' and opened 'indiscriminate' fire, killing nine and injuring over 40.

Seven of the injured are in serious condition and have been airlifted to Jammu. The rest are being treated by a team of doctors who arrived by chopper with state Food and Supplies Minister Bashu Ahmad Kitchoo.

Though details are scarce (the area is inaccessible due to heavy snow fall), Kitchoo described the incident as 'avoidable'.

"There was no officer accompanying the armymen and they panicked when the villagers, including women, resisted," Kitchoo told Rediff On The NeT in a telephone interview from Jammu, "The male members were just returning from Eid prayers."

The minister said a case has been registered with the Marwah police against the army men. The villagers, he added, were highly agitated and were refusing to bury the dead.

Minister of State for Home Ali Mohammed Sagar, who described the incident as 'unfortunate' and 'it should not have happened', has ordered a judicial inquiry. The inquiry will start on Sunday morning.

Meanwhile, high tension gripped the Muslim community in Doda as news of the killings spread like wild fire.

Army and police sources said security has been beefed up in Kashmir where the All Party Hurriyat Conference has called for a strike on Sunday.

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