Shillong: Two persons including a schoolteacher, riding a motorcycle, were shot dead by the Army in Meghalaya's North Garo Hills district, an incident which the Army said took place because it mistook them as armed militants.
Local schoolteacher Sweetbirth D Marak and Alphuis Momin, both residents of Rajasimla village, were returning home on a motorcycle last night when they were shot dead by Army personnel at Kharkutta area, officials said today.
"We are awaiting details of the case from the police. Accordingly, a magisterial inquiry will be constituted," district deputy commissioner SC Sadhu told PTI.
Kharkutta MLA Cherak W Momin, who reached the spot this morning, condemned the killing of the two "innocent people".
"The matter needs to be probed immediately and the guilty should be punished," he said, adding that this is the second instance of "indiscriminate firing" by the Army resulting in the death of two persons in the area.
The Army, confirming the killing of the two civilians, said they were killed as they didn't stop after being asked to during counter-terrorist operations.
"Firstly this incident primarily occurred due to non-adherence of existing security instructions by the concerned motorcycle-borne civilians," Army PRO Lieutenant Colonel Suneet Newton said in a statement here and in Guwahati.
He said, "The heightened level of terrorism to include senseless violence, kidnapping for ransom and extortion by the terrorist groups in the area has caused the Army in conjunction with Meghalaya Police to carry out increased vigil. In this particular instance, the Army troops were actively dominating the area in the form of an area domination patrol."
The release said the Army had specific information of two GNLA cadres moving in a motorcycle and as such had set up a checkpoint on the road from Kharkuta to Khilor. "We started checking the motorcycles passing by.
Initially, two motorcycles (bearing registration number ML 07A 9882 and AS 18A 75), both having two persons each (aged between 20-25 years) were signalled to stop. Both the motorcycles stopped and were checked in detail. They were left when nothing suspicious was found.
"At approximately 8.40 pm, the third motorcyclists, when signalled to stop, abnormally accelerated their bike and tried to escape. Due to the huge back blast and flash which came out of the silencer and due to the prevailing pitch darkness, it seemed that the motorcyclists had opened fire. The troops also opened fire in self-defence, due to which the motorcyclists were hit & died on the spot," the release said.
A detailed investigation is being done by the Army authorities on issues related to the incident, it added.