Poonch civilians' custodial deaths: Indian Army says probe at advanced stage

Team India Sentinels Friday 5th of April 2024 01:38 PM

The Army convoy was ambushed on the road shown inside the box. (Google Earth)

New Delhi: The Indian Army has issued a statement regarding the deaths of three civilians in Poonch, Jammu & Kashmir, in December 2023. It said the service has initiated a court of inquiry (CoI) into the custodial deaths. The CoI is at an advanced stage, and strict action will be taken against those found guilty of lapses.

It also said that a separate CoI into lapses in the conduct of operations is also underway.

The three deceased civilians, identified as Safeer Hussain (43), Mohd Showket (27), and Shabir Ahmad (32), were from Topa Peer village in Poonch. They were among nine people picked up by the Army for questioning following a terror ambush that resulted in the deaths of four soldiers, as India Sentinels had reported earlier.

The incident occurred on December 21, 2023, when Army vehicles navigating a blind curve at Dhatyar Morh between Dera ki Gali area and Bulfiaz came under heavy fire from militants. The vehicles were transporting soldiers to an active operation site in that area.

Following the ambush, the area was tense, and the subsequent custodial deaths added to the unrest. Leaked videos purported to be of the custodial torture of the civilians added anger to the widespread outrage.

Days later, the defence minister, Rajnath Singh, and the Army chief, General Manoj Pande, visited the area for a security review. Singh met with the families of the deceased and assured them of an expeditious investigation into the incident.

As of now, the Army has moved three officers, including a brigadier, from Poonch pending the outcome of the probe. The proceedings related to the alleged incident are still in progress.

In its statement, the Army also expressed its commitment to conducting a thorough and impartial inquiry to ascertain the facts surrounding the incident. It emphasized its commitment to upholding the highest standards of discipline, conduct, and ethics in accordance with the law.

The force also stated that it maintains zero tolerance towards any human rights violations.

The Army’s protocols and procedures are designed to ensure that all personnel adhere to these principles, even under the most challenging operational conditions, it said, adding that further actions will be taken based on the outcome of the investigations and finalization of proceedings.

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