Army Owns Killings, Calls It Mistake

Have learnt lessons to avoid such incidents in future: Lt Gen Hooda

SRINAGAR: Accepting responsibility for the killing of two Kashmiri teenagers in Chattergam village of Central Kashmir, Indian Army Friday said that it will provide ex-gratia of Rs 10 lakh each for families of the deceased and Rs 5 lakh for those injured.

Addressing a press conference in Srinagar, Lt Gen D S Hooda of the Northern Army Command said that the killing of two teenagers was a case of ‘mistaken identity’. However, he added that the inquiry will be completed within ten days and stringent punishment will be awarded to the soldiers who violated the rules.

 "There was some information about a white car with militants. Obviously, the identity was mistaken in this case. We take responsibility for the deaths," Lt General D S Hooda said adding that the Army promises a transparent and time bound inquiry.

Pertinently, two students Faisal Yusuf Bhat, 14, a class 7 student,  and Me’rajuddin Dar 21, were killed while two others - Shaker Bhat and Zahid Naqash  were injured on Monday evening when soldiers of 53 Rashtriya Rifles opened fire on their car at Chattergam village in Budgam district. 

Soon after the incident, the Army had claimed that the youths, who were travelling in a car, did not stop at two vehicle checking points and even tried to break through the third barrier when asked to stop. 

Earlier an Army official had even informed some reporters that it was a militant attack and Army was able to neutralize two militants. 

As the facts surfaced following public outcry, Army expressed regret and ordered an inquiry into the killing of these two civilians.

Army Commander said that the troops had information that suspected terrorists were travelling in a white car in that direction. "But this has proved to be a horrible case of mistaken identity," he said.

Lt Gen Hooda further said that guilty soldiers will be punished so that it will become a precedence and in future such incidents don’t occur. “The probe that we have ordered is going on fast track basis. Let me tell you that the probe is going on in transparent manner and we are trying to ascertain what prompted the soldiers to fire upon the Maruti car,” he said.

Responding to a question, Hooda said that Army is ready to cooperate with police or government if they want to initiate a separate inquiry into the incident. “We are ready to cooperate with anyone, be it police or civil administration, public or any civil society group,” he said. 

The Northern Army commander also said that the involved military unit of the 53 Rashtriya Rifles had been relocated and troops from 25 Rashtriya Rifles have replaced them. The general however steered clear from the "larger debate of AFSPA" when asked by reporters and said it was not the right platform to discuss that.

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