February 2004 News

'Custody Death' Draws Srinagar Out On Streets

17 February 2004
The Indian Express

Srinagar: A ruling Peoples' Democratic Party (PDP) leader and two members of a family were among four persons killed in militancy-related violence in J-K where security forces smashed six militant hideouts, including one set up by Pak-backed Lashker-e-Toiba since last evening, an official said here today. Furious over the death of one Abdul Rashid Bhat, protestors today blocked the national highway at Narbal on the outskirts of the city. Bhat was allegedly picked up by a joint team of Special Operations Group (SOG) and some Ikhwanis last night and later killed in custody. A police official denied Bhat was picked up by cops, blaming his death on personal enmity. Bhat's brother-in-law Mohammad Yusuf Sheikh was allegedly killed by SOG and Army in a fake encounter last June in Ganderbal, a charge that's denied by the Army. Family sources allege the security forces are harassing them because a member of the Sheikh family is reportedly a top Hizbul Mujahideen commander. 'They tell us our brother is back from across the LoC and is active in the region. We lost one brother because of that and today, our brother-in-law has been killed by the SOG,' alleged a family member. Later, senior separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani was taken into custody while on his way to sympathise with the family. Militants also detonated an IED along the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway in south Kashmir's Pulwama district today, damaging several vehicles and windowpanes of houses but no casualty was reported. The improvised explosive device, planted at Keegam near here, went off at 5.20 am with the security forces being the likely target, official sources said. The intended target could be convoys of the security forces which often use the route in the early hours of the day, they said. Sources said the blast could have been carried out by Hizbul Mujahideen militant outfit. Last night, militants barged into the house of PDP block president Ali Mohammad Bhat in Budgam district of central Kashmir and sprayed bullets on him, killing him on the spot. Militants also killed one Roshan Din and his son Khushi Mohammad in their house at Dada Mahore in Udhampur district last night. Roshan's brother Hakim was injured in the shootout. Elsewhere, a joint team of police and security forces smashed a militant hideout set up by LeT in a private house owned by Ghulam Mohammad Dar at Nowgam-Shopian in Pulwama district and recovered a pistol, 10 rounds, 15 diaries, some photographs of deceased militants and some incriminating documents. Another man, Mohammad Maqbool Itoo, was also injured in a shootout at Yadipora-Palhalan in Baramulla District today, he added. Quoting late information, an official said security forces busted five militant hideouts at Fagla nursery in Poonch district and recovered one under- barrel grenade launcher, a petromax and a large quantity of edible items.


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