The army today said it has initiated a high-level Court of Inquiry to probe into an encounter by its troops in which three unidentified terrorists were killed in Jammu and Kashmir's Shopian district last month. This comes after three families in Rajouri area filed a complaint with the police that their missing sons were killed in a staged encounter and passed off as terrorists.
"As intimated on 11 Aug 2020, a high-level Court of Inquiry into Op Amshipora, Shopian on 18 Jul 2020 is under progress. Statements of key witnesses are being recorded and progress is being monitored closely," the army said in a statement today.
It said the Court of Inquiry will record the statements of civilian witnesses, and the DNA samples of the missing men have been collected and sent for matching with those of the terrorists killed in the encounter.
"Indian Army is committed to ethical conduct of all Counter Terrorist operations. Cases where doubts are raised are investigated under due process as per the law of the land. Since the case is under investigation, further details will be shared periodically, as appropriate without affecting due legal process," it added.
The controversy started after the post-encounter photographs of three young men surfaced on social media. The families identified them as three cousins who went missing on July 17 from a rented accommodation in the Chowgam village in Shopian district.
Their families said that 17-year-old Abrar, 25-year-old Imtiyaz and 20-year-old Abrar Ahmad were labourers, who had gone to Shopian to work.
Following the controversy, both the army and the police had said they were investigating the matter.
The locals had told NDTV that after the encounter, people in the area were called by the police and the army to identify the bodies - none of them turned out to be locals.
"We were called to identify the bodies. We could not identify any of them - they were not locals. They had bullets in their face, eyes and chest," said Mohammad Ashraf, a villager who lives just 100 meters from the encounter site.
The police say the bodies can be exhumed and handed over to the families only when their DNA samples match. Last week a police team from Shopian visited Rajouri and collected the DNA samples.
The relatives of the three men, native of Dhar Sakri village in Rajouri area in Poonch, had lost contact with them on July 17, a day before the encounter.
The families had said that the men had told them that were staying in a rented room at Chowgam, 8 km from the encounter site.
Several regional parties in the Union Territory had demanded a thorough probe into the encounter and the disappearance of the men.
Earlier this month, Srinagar-based Defence spokesperson Colonel Rajesh Kalia issued a brief statement saying the army had noted social media messages linked to the encounter.
"The three terrorists killed during the operation have not been identified and the bodies were buried based on established protocols. The army is investigating the matter," he had said.