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Tuesday, 16 July, 2002, 13:54 GMT 14:54 UK
Kashmir massacre suspects 'innocent'
Kashmir teargas
The killings of the men led to massive protests
Five men killed by the Indian security forces in Kashmir two years ago were innocent civilians and not foreign militants, the state authorities say.

The security forces said after killing the men that they were foreign militants from a Pakistani-backed group who had carried out a massacre of 35 Sikhs.

Bodies taken away
The Sikh massacre left 35 people dead

But Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah told the Jammu and Kashmir state assembly that DNA tests on the remains of the men proved that they were local residents of Anantnag district in Indian-administered Kashmir as claimed by their relatives.

Their families had insisted all along that they had been killed in a fake encounter after being arrested by the security forces.

Probe ordered

Farooq Abdullah said he would be asking India's Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to look into the killing of the men.

He said he also wanted them to conduct a probe into local officials responsible for DNA samples that were sent for analysis to laboratories elsewhere in India.

The samples were only taken after huge protest demonstrations in Kashmir forced the authorities to exhume the bodies of the men in order to establish their identity.

It subsequently turned out that the samples had been tampered with and fresh DNA had to be collected in April this year.

The massacre of the 35 Sikhs was one of the worst acts of violence against civilians in Kashmir during the history of the insurgency against Indian rule.

It occurred on the eve of a high-profile visit to India by the then US president, Bill Clinton.

The security forces blamed it on the Pakistan-backed Lashkar-e-Toiba militant group.

Human rights activists and Kashmiri groups have long accused the security forces of staging fake encounters, in which innocent civilians are killed.

The army always says it looks into such allegations.

Militant groups in Kashmir are fighting to end Indian rule in the territory.

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