After 15 years, CBI sniffs Sailan trail as probe opens 3rd time

Sailan massacreSurvivors of the Sailan massacre stand on the roof of Ahmed Dinís house. Express

ON the intervening night of August 3- 4, 1998, gunmen swooped in on Sailan village atop Pir Panjal mountain along the Mughal road nearly four kilometer from Buffliaz, killing 19 members of three families including four women and 12 children. The Army and police had then blamed inter-gang rivalry among militants for the massacre, saying that the son of one of the deceased was an active militant.

Related: High Court orders CBI probe into 1998 Poonch massacre

Fifteen years later, the suspects are Army and police officials, with the CBI following Jammu and Kashmir High Court directions and registering an FIR in the matter. This is for the third time that the case has been reopened.

First time, the police closed the case as "untraced" in 1999. Following dissatisfaction expressed by some of the surviving family members, it was again reopened in 2000 only to be closed again as "untraceable" in 2003.

However, it wasn't easy for the families to get the CBI to take over investigations. One of them, Mohammad Latief, had to even leave his job in Saudi Arabia and return to Sailan to get justice for his deceased parents and siblings.

The survivors identified some of the officials behind the massacre as the then Major Gourav of 9 Para Commandos posted at Buffliaz, then SP (operations) Sewak Singh and some SPOs Mohammad Yunus and Mohammad Rafi, besides Mohammad Akbar and Maqsood Ahmed. While Major Gourav is reportedly Lt Colonel now, SP Sewak Singh is in jail for killing a junior officer in a fake encounter. The SPOs are still working with the police, with having received promotions and medals for gallantry.

Locals alleged the massacre was carried out by the 9 Para Commandos and some SPOs to avenge the killing of SPO Zakir Hussain by militant commander Imtiyaz Sheikh and his associates. The deceased included Imtiyaz's father Lassa Sheikh, mother Zainab Bi, his deaf and dumb brother and three sisters. The other deceased include Hassan Mohammad, his daughter-in-law and grandchildren. From the third family, deceased included Ahmed Din, his wife Sara Begum and children. Both Hassan Mohammad and Ahmed Din were brothers, while Lassa Sheikh was their first cousin.

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