Villagers Say Troops of Executed Eight Kashmiris During Search
MALANGAM, India (AP) _ Kashmiri villagers on Sunday accused Indian troops of executing eight men in killings the government recorded as deaths by cross-fire.
The incident occurred Saturday in Malangam, about 12 miles from the disputed Indian-Pakistani border. The paramilitary Indian Border Security Force reported the men were killed in gunfire during battles with troops and rebels.
Villagers said the killings reflect the severity of the crackdown by Indian forces since the Muslim separatist movement in Kashmir turned violent 16 months ago.
Sherif Din, 45, said he saw Mirza Khan, whom villagers said was a Kashmiri militant, and seven men from one family shot to death by a dozen members of the border force.
Raj Wali, 70, said he and his relatives were beaten by the troops who demanded to know where arms were being hidden.
″I said, ’I don’t know. My sons are farmers and cattle herders, not militants,‴ Wali said, displaying bruises on his legs. ″The whole night they were beating my sons. I went to the mosque and prayed to God that if my sons are spared I would sacrifice 1,100 rupees (about $60) worth of cattle in thanksgiving.″
As is customary in this Gujar tribal area, Wali referred to all the young men in his family as his sons. Among the dead were four of his real sons and three relatives.
Nadir Ali, a 50-year-old villager, said he also witnessed the shootings. He said hands of the seven men were bound with ropes behind their backs.
″I saw one man shot dead. I recognized him as Mirza Khan,″ Din said. ″Another (security force) party came with seven people and in the field all seven were shot dead.″
Malangam residents said about 100 army soldiers and border police raided their village of 6,000 people late Friday searching for Muslim militants.
Muslims are fighting for a separate state in Kashmir. Kashmir-Jammu state is the only state in mainly Hindu India in which Muslims are a majority.
At least 2,000 people have been killed in the Kashmir Valley since Indian paramilitary forces intervened in December 1989.
About 65 percent of Jammu-Kashmir’s 6 million people are Muslim. Nationwide, Muslims make up 12 percent and Hindus account for 82 percent of India’s 844 million people.