Army blames three soldiers for Kashmir killings (Second lead, Changing dateline)

March 20th, 2009 - 10:17 pm ICT by IANS  

Jammu, March 20 (IANS) The Indian Army admitted Friday that three of its men were guilty of killing two civilians in Jammu and Kashmir and said that it had ordered disciplinary action against them.
A court of inquiry held a junior commissioned officer and two soldiers of 22 Rashtriya Rifles responsible for the incident that took place Feb 22 at Bumai in north Kashmir.

The authorities had said initially that the victims died in firing between militants and the security forces. But local residents alleged vocally that they were killed by soldiers.

Almost a month later, the army admitted that it was in the wrong.

“The inquiry has held a junior commissioned officer and two soldiers who were involved in the Bumai incident accountable for various lapses,” army spokesman Col. D.K. Kachari said in a statement.

“Besides the failure to exercise the desired command and control by the junior commissioned officer, the charges also encompass failure by the two soldiers to exercise restraint in the handling of their weapons,” it said.

A brigadier conducted the inquiry following widespread condemnation of the death of civilians.

The spokesman said that disciplinary action had been ordered against the three soldiers. Besides, any additional charges that may be brought after police investigation will be dealt with under the law.

“The army reiterates its commitment to uphold the law of the land and to (show) zero tolerance of human rights violations,” Kachari said.

The Jammu and Kashmir government had ordered a probe by the deputy commissioner of the area, who submitted his report this month blaming the army for the killings.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Omar Abdullah had met Defence Minister A.K. Antony Wednesday and sought action against the guilty army personnel. Antony had thereafter asked the army to hasten its probe.

Upset by the killings, Abdullah has asked for the repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act that gives the security forces unfettered rights to raid suspected militant hideouts and arrest militant suspects.

Both Jammu and Kashmir and central government officials say they are determined to end human rights abuses in the state where a separatist drive raging since 1989 has killed thousands.

While a large number of victims have been combatants, civilians too have perished in large numbers.

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