Valley Police Face Human-shield Slur24 January 2010
The Telegraph (Kolkata)
Srinagar: A civilian allegedly used as a human shield by security forces in an encounter with militants died today, triggering a backlash on a day police claimed to have unearthed a cache of arms elsewhere meant for a Republic Day attack. The police said Mushtaq Ahmad, who succumbed to his injuries this morning, got caught in the crossfire during the operation to flush out insurgents at Karimpora village in south Kashmir’s Pulwama late last evening. Locals, however, alleged that Mushtaq, son of the village headman, was used as a human shield against a barrage of fire directed at the forces. “There is a lot of tension in our village and we will not rest until they punish the guilty troopers,” one villager said. The protests against the second civilian death in the Valley in the past three days - a youth was allegedly killed by cops while protesting a blockade of a road that leads to a Baramulla shrine - came as the police seized arms and ammunition, including 12kg of RDX, in Baramulla. Pulwama police chief Kifayat Hyder insisted initially that Mushtaq was hit in the firing by the militants. Sources said there were two insurgents and that they escaped during the gunfight. Later, however, Hyder announced a probe in the face of the protests, which saw the cops use batons and tear gas to control stone-throwing mobs. The area officer in charge, two other cops and seven villagers were injured, the sources said. Hyder, however, appeared to play down the violence. “There were some protests but they were pacified after we promised a probe. We have registered a case of murder.” He claimed that those behind the violence were not locals. The sources said, however, the trouble spread to areas beyond Mushtaq’s village, around 42km from Srinagar, prompting deployment of additional forces at the Pulwama district headquarters. The Baramulla arms cache, unearthed in an underground dump in Chak Mamossa village, had 51 automatic grenade launchers, 57 grenades, 42 under-barrel grenade launchers and two anti-personnel mines in addition to the large quantity of RDX. Also found were 30 detonators, one machinegun, four wireless sets, 28 electric circuits, 13 mortar shells, 32 improvised circuits, four charger boxes and 2,100 rounds of ammunition for AK rifles. Baramulla police chief Shakeel Beig said his force had “averted a major tragedy”. “Militants had dug up a small patch of land near a drain and planted two plastic water tanks in the trench. The tanks were packed with the arms and ammunition, to be used during Republic Day.” A high alert was sounded for January 26 after the cache’s recovery.