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Kashmiri villagers file FIR against Army 

Jammu: Villagers in Jammu and Kashmir said that three alleged Pakistan-based militant infiltrators killed by troops were innocent Indian civilians.

Police said on Friday that villagers in Mendhar in southwest Jammu and Kashmir had filed a first information report (FIR) against the Army, accusing it of abducting and murdering the men.

An Army spokesman declined to comment on the FIR, which under India's legal system paves the way for police to start investigating an alleged offence.

The issue of militant infiltration has assumed key importance as India and Pakistan remain locked in a military standoff with a million men massed on both sides of the border.

India, which has made a halt to infiltration a condition for ending the standoff, said this week that the number of militants entering its territory from Pakistan had risen again despite a pledge by Islamabad to end such incursions.

Pakistan has flatly rejected the charges, saying they are aimed at deflecting international calls to reduce tensions.

The three men were killed last Saturday in Kashmir when the Army said they crossed the Line of Control.

Deputy Inspector General of Police S S Bijral said, "we're investigating the matter... and it will take us some time."

The Army alleged the trio belonged to the Pakistan-based Harkat-ul-Jehadi-Islami and took reporters to see the bodies laid out beside a large pile of arms and ammunition. But the villagers said that the dead men were a father, son and son-in-law who lived locally.

They told Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Omar Abdullah, son of Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah, that the Army had killed innocent civilians, police said. "He has taken a very serious note of the incident and has taken the matter up with authorities," a police official said.

Earlier this year, the state government admitted officials faked forensic samples in an attempt to prove the guilt of five youths blamed for the massacre of 36 Sikhs two years ago ahead of a visit by the then US president Bill Clinton to India.

Newspapers alleged that security forces rounded up the youths, killed them, burned their bodies and then claimed they were "foreign militants" responsible for the Sikhs' deaths (Reuters, 6 July).

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