Latehar encounter: 'Security forces used us as human shields'

FP

The villagers of Amwatikar, about 40 km from Latehar town, have alleged that security forces used their men, women and children as "human shields" and forced them to look for and recover the bodies of CRPF men killed in the encounter with Maoists last week.

Four villagers were killed and a fifth was injured when they were trying to recover the body of a CRPF personnel which had been rigged with explosives. Three of the villagers were from Amwatikar, while the fourth was from Nawadih.

Nine CRPF personnel and a constable of the Jharkhand Jaguars were killed in the Latehar encounter on January 7. Of the five bodies recovered later, IEDs had been placed inside the abdomens of two CRPF personnel. While one went off, killing the villagers, the other was later defused.

No security personnel was injured in this blast. Villagers have alleged that the security personnel remained at least five metres away from the bodies.

"We were all in the house when the prashasan (administration) came. They told us to go and search for the bodies, or else they would shoot us," said Suneshwar Kumar Bhuiyan, 22, whose brother Jugeshwar, 45, was among those killed.

Jugeshwar's son, Dinesh, 12, was at the spot when his father died. "I saw his shirt go as high up as the branches," he said.

Women and children have alleged that they were also forced to accompany the security personnel into the forest. Rajmani, the mother of one of the victims, Ghanu Singh, has claimed that he was only 16 years old. "I ran away when the attack began. Ghanu was taken by the prashasan... He was 16 years old. We were planning to get him married soon," she said. An official associated with the village school said Ghanu was a Class 8 student.

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