Kashmir villagers protest deaths in Army shootout | india | Hindustan Times
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Kashmir villagers protest deaths in Army shootout

india Updated: Feb 25, 2014 16:05 IST
Toufiq Rashid

A day after the army claimed it killed seven militants in north Kashmir, local residents demonstrated and clashed with the police, saying the deceased were locals who had gone to collect firewood in a nearby forest.

But Kilo force commander Major General SK Saini told reporters all the deceased were "mercenaries who were killed in a fierce gunfight with the police and the army".

"We have taken photographs of the bodies of the militants and handed over the bodies to the villagers for burial. All the killed militants were foreigners,'' Maj General Saini said.

The army also said blood samples of the "dead militants' were taken for DNA tests.

Demanding the bodies of the dead, villagers in Lolab area of north Kashmir's Kupwara district threw stones at the police and attempted to set afire a building in Lolab Police Station, about 110km north of Srinagar.

A few reporters covering the protests were also injured in the clash. The police fired in aerial to control the protesters, who insisted the seven men had gone to the forest to collect firewood.

The army claims it is still combing the area for the three more persons it claims are militants hiding in the area.

A Srinagar-based army spokesman on Monday said,"An army patrol part which was dominating the general area Dardpura, Lolab, was fired upon (around 2.40pm). The patrol retaliated by effective firing resulting in killing of seven militants."

"A cache of arms and ammunition have been recovered. The identity of the slain militants is being ascertained," the spokesman had said.

The police had said that the militants were killed in a joint operation. Citing an intelligence report, they said the deceased were part of a group of 10 militants who had recently infiltrated into Kashmir in October last year.

"Police has handed over the bodies of the slain militants to the locals, as demanded by them," said a Srinagar-based police spokesman.

Police however did not comment about the identity of the militants.

"We were still trying to ascertain their identity," the spokesman added.