Civilian driver claims police not involved in firing



Srinagar: A civilian driver, who was hired by the Army for ferrying the troops to the village in Kashmir where two youth were killed in firing, on Monday claimed the state police was not involved in the operation.

"There was no one else there when the first burst of firing took place .... There was only the army," Manzoor Ahmad Sheikh, one of the five civilian drivers hired for the operation by the army, told reporters.

Two youth were killed in firing in Markundal village of Sumbal area in Bandipora district yesterday, trigerring massive protests in the area.

Sheikh said the vehicles were called to the Safapora army camp on Saturday and at 11.00 pm they started moving.

"We were told that some army personnel have to be dropped in Sonamarg area. We (however) proceeded towards Markundal village," he said.

The driver said around 4.00 am on Sunday, he and other drivers heard firing shots. Some time later, they heard wails of women, he added.

Asked if army personnel had opened firing, Sheikh said "I did not see it. I only heard the gunshots.

The Army, while ordering an inquiry into the incident, had said the operation at Markundal was jointly conducted with local police.

Meanwhile, an Army officer said Army personnel did not fire the bullets that led to the first killing.

"We are surprised who fired upon him. I reached the spot and checked the ammunition of my men and I found that not a single bullet was wasted by my jawans", Commander of 3 Sector Rashtriya Rifles, Brigadier Gopal Sharma, told reporters at Mansbal soon after protestors set Army Goodwill School on fire.

Brigadier Sharma, however, admitted another youth was killed in Army firing.

"We were helpless that time. The protestors had snatched the keys of our vehicles and damaged one of the ambulances completely. Our jawans fired upon the protestors in self defence," he said.

Brig Sharma maintained the jawans of 13 RR and Special Operation Group personnel of local police had laid a siege of Markundal area after they had received information that militants were present in the village.

PTI