After 12 years, cops crack Udhampur village massacre

NBAT
An incomplete address written by a man just before his death this may seem an unlikely clue to crack a 12-year-old case involving militants. But this is exactly what led the police to solve the massacre of seven villagers, including four village defence committee members, in Udhampur district.

Recently, three militants and their over ground worker (OGW) were arrested for the crime. The accused have been identified as Farooq Ahmed (code name Nasir), Manzoor Ahmed (code name Furqan), Abdul Latif (code name Fayaz) and Mohammad Din (OGW) all residents of Ramban district. The whereabouts of another militant, Showkat Patwari alias Hussainu, is unknown. Eight others involved in the crime have died in various encounters with the security forces during the past 10 years. They include Hizbul Mujahideen's the then divisional commanders, Billoo Gujjar and Amanullah alias Iqbal, Nadeem, Bilal, Shahid Lata Peer, Saddar Din, Gazi and Kari.

The militants had killed seven people near the site of the Sawalakote hydel project at Panchari in Udhampur district on November 30, 2001. The arrested militants had surrendered before the police between 2002 and 2007 and were granted bail by the court. In 2002, the police had closed the case and submitted a closure report to the court in 2005 stating that no clue could be gathered about the killers.

THE PLOT

Militant commanders operating in Gool and Banihal had held a series of meetings and even sent an advance party comprising Showkat Patwari, Abdul Latif, Nadeem, Bilal to contact the OGW.

After conducting a recce, over a dozen militants assembled at Sarthal (Gool) and proceeded to Tarsui near Tatta Pani on the right bank of the Chenab where they shaved their beards and donned Army and police uniforms on November 29, 2001. They crossed the Chenab with the help of wooden logs and an artificial single ropeway. They spent the night at the house of the OGW, Mohammad Din, at Sadua Tanger (Ramban) near a local police post. The next morning, they were provided with packed lunch before they left his house. After some distance, they came face-to-face with a team conducting survey of the hydel project, and also security forces and police's special task force personnel who opened fire at them at Sedua. The militants did not retaliate and continued with their journey.

Mohammad Din did not provide any information about them despite repeated requests by the security forces personnel and police who launched searches in the area.

The same evening, the militants reached Chakka Galiote (Panchari) and posing as security personnel from the hydel project called the villagers, including the VDC members, for

recruitment.

They asked the VDC members to deposit their weapons before undergoing a physical test and stand in a queue along with others. The militants then shot them dead and escaped.

THE CLUE

The clue came to light during the investigation into a double murder case a local trader Ashok Khajuria and his wife Parmila Devi were killed at Panchari in 2008.

Additional Superintendent of Police, Udhampur, Benam Tosh, who was assigned investigations in the double murder, following directions from the high court, noticed that the deceased had made an incomplete last entry in his register. The entry mentioned one Abdul Latif.

From the entry in the register and material seized from the spot, it appeared that the killers had knocked at Khajuria's door saying that Abdul Latif's mother had died and they wanted a piece of cloth and other material required for her burial.

While he was writing Abdul Latif's name in his register to record goods sent to his house on credit, the militants killed him. Hence, the entry remained incomplete.

THE CONFESSION

Benam Tosh called all local residents having 'Abdul Latif' name. During questioning, Abdul Latif, a surrendered militant, broke down confessing his involvement in the massacre of seven villagers 12 years ago.

Latif, however, denied his involvement in the murder of Khajuria and his wife.

Significantly, the police had earlier, too, questioned local people named Abdul Latif, but let them go home after finding no evidence against them.

Tosh said that the case pertaining to the massacre of seven people by militants stands solved, and the police have also arrested some people in connection with the double murder.

The suspects have been sent to Gujarat for a narco test, he added.

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