Omar Hits Out At Army Killing - Youth Picked Up From Home And Shot Dead, Says Family5 February 2011
The Telegraph (Kolkata)
Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah was today locked in fresh confrontation with the army after troopers shot dead the son of a National Conference sympathiser in Kashmir’s Handwara last night. Manzoor Ahmad Magrey, 24, was shot dead at Gund Chogal village of Handwara, the killing triggering massive protests today. Manzoor’s father Ghulam Ahmad Magrey, a supporter of the ruling party, said his son was taken out by the army from his home and killed by the riverside. “We were preparing to sleep after having dinner when the army (jawans) came and called for my son. They shot him dead without any reason,” he said. The army, however, said the youth died after he walked into an ambush laid by troops for militants. Omar today travelled to Handwara to condole with the Magrey family. “How can one not condemn the death of Manzoor at the hands of the army late last night? Another needless death in a bloody Kashmir….” the chief minister tweeted hours after the incident. “I’m even more upset with the knowledge that a suggestion of mine made in the unified command could have avoided this incident,” he added, apparently referring to his repeated directions to the army to follow standard operating procedure while dealing with civilians. The police have filed a murder case against the army but the move failed to cool tempers and thousands took to the streets. Ghulam, the father, said: “I urge the government to seek answers from the army. Everyone knows he (Manzoor) was innocent.” Defence spokesperson Lt Col J.S. Brar said the youth did not stop after being challenged. “Based on specific intelligence, the troops had laid an ambush on Friday night at Maidan-Shogul. Around 10.30pm, they detected suspicious movement of two persons,” he said. “In accordance with the standing operative procedures, the troops challenged the duo to surrender but they tried to run away in the cover of darkness, on which the troops opened firing resulting in fatal injuries to Manzoor.” Brar said the troops had adhered to the procedures for challenging, as laid down in the rules of engagement. “We regret the loss, more so as the year has been declared by the army as the year of Kashmiri Awam (people). We deeply and sincerely express our heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family,” he said. The relations between Omar and the army have been strained for months since the state government’s decision to shift an army camp from Bomai in Sopore following troop involvement in the murder of two youths. The army also opposes Omar’s moves for a gradual amendment of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and a phased reduction of troops. In recent months, however, the army has made efforts to bridge the divide. It removed the Northern Command spokesperson who had openly criticised Omar for his remarks on troop reduction, and followed it up by adopting a reconciliatory tone. Lt Gen. Syed Ata Hasnain, the new army chief for Kashmir, recently said the army would deal with the situation in a humanitarian manner and promised that human rights violations would be avoided at all costs. Last night’s killing has given fresh ammunition to Omar’s rivals. People’s Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti said the cold-blooded murder had exposed the state government’s claims. “The killing of innocents has been going on unabated, and the government has been brazenly indulging in farcical tactics. It is unfortunate that while the count of the dead, mostly youngsters, keeps mounting, the government has been busy deceiving people in the name of filing FIRs,” she said. The Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front described the killing as another crime against humanity.