Local residents found bullet-ridden bodies of three young men in an orchard in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district on Monday, triggering violent protests in parts of the Valley though police said they may have been killed due to rivalry between two militant groups.
Kashmir police chief Javed Gillani said one of the men was identified as Amir Reshi, who went missing two months back and joined the banned Pakistan-based terror group Hizbul Mujahideen.
Officials said he and two others were killed because of a war between Hizbul and its breakaway faction Lashkar-e-Islam, led by a local militant Qayoom Najar. All three were in their early twenties, police said.
"As of now, it seems the boys have been killed in an inter-group rivalry between the Hizb and its disbanded group as Amir Reshi had joined the militant group some two months ago,'' said Gillani, Inspector General of Police, Kashmir Range.
Late in the evening, police said one more man was identified as Ashiq Ahmad Wani, an active Hizbul militant.
The Valley has had a bloody history of civilian deaths, allegedly at the hands of militants or security forces. Just last week, the army confirmed life sentences for six of its personnel for the staged encounter deaths of three people in north Kashmir’s Maachil in 2010, which triggered violent protests across the state and resulted in the deaths of 112 people.
Hours after the discovery, clashes broke out between protestors and security forces in Sopore and Baramulla towns as protestors blocked the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad highway. Markets were shut in both towns in protest.
The main opposition party, the National Conference, called the killings an `extreme tragedy'' and demanded a medical board be constituted to conduct forensic exams on the bodies.
“@JKNC_ demands the constitution of a medical board from SKIMS, SMHS Hospitals to conduct forensic exams on 3 bodies recovered in Pattan,” NC spokesperson Junaid Azim Mattu tweeted.
Top police sources said the youth were likely to be a part of the Laskhar-e-Islam, the same group that was involved in a series of killings in north Kashmir's Sopore town in May, including a few telecom company officials and civilians.
The killings were condemned by separatists as well as the Hizbul chief Sayed Sallahuddin, leading to a rift between the two groups.
Residents saw the three bodies lying in a pool of blood in an orchard in the village of Shutz Dangerpora Nihalpora in Pattan, Baramulla.
Eyewitnesses said the police was informed around 12 am but the boys appeared to have been killed in the night.
“Police reached the spot after being informed and took possession of the bodies," said a police spokesperson in Srinagar.
The bodies have been sent for post mortem and their identities are being ascertained. “Medico legal formalities are being conducted and the investigation has been taken up," the spokesperson added.