Two army men in Poonch mistaken for kidnappers, thrashed

September 21st, 2012 - 12:51 am ICT by IANS  

Jammu, Sep 20 (IANS) On the edge after rumours of child kidnappers in the area, residents of a village in Jammu and Kashmir’s mountainous border district of Poonch district thrashed up two soldiers of Territorial Army before handing them over to police.

The incident occurred in Khanetar village, about 250 km northwest of Jammu.

The deputy sarpanch (village head) Kabir Hussain told IANS over phone that the men, when questioned, said they had come to inspect the school.

Villagers saw that they carried candy in their pockets, and grew suspicious that the men were out to kidnap children, he said.

It was only after getting soundly beaten up that the men confessed that they were army men. The army unit nearby was called, and the two were identified before being taken into police custody.

An army spokesman told IANS: “This is a case of mistaken identity. The locals were scared by the rumored presence of child lifters in the area, and did not allow the men a chance to reveal their true identity. The two are now lodged with police, and we are trying to resolve the matter.”

The two, identified as Abdul Hamid and Zahoor Hussain, hail from Poonch district, and are in the Territorial Army. “They were on leave, and they do not belong to the place where the incident happened,” the army spokesman said.

For over a fortnight, rumours have been spreading that childlifters have been prowling in Poonch.

Ali Mohammad Badana, a resident of Surankot township, said: “We are very scared of this gang. We cannot sleep at night in peace because we think our children might go missing. Many people have taken to escorting the children to school and back, and there are some parents who are not sending children to school for fear they will go missing.”

Iqbal Khan from Khanetar village said: “We have seen these unidentified men in army uniform. Police and army must investigate and find out if there are rogue elements in the force.”

The army, however, dismissed such claims as fanciful, and police also sought to calm the people.

Poonch’s Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Shamsheer Hussain, said: “Some miscreants threw stones at houses during the night. Somehow, from there, rumours began to spread of this gang of masked men attempting to kidnap kids.”

“We are trying to allay fears. The people of Khanetar, where the incident happened, are now satisfied that there are no masked men out to get their kids,” he said.

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