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We were restrained and professional in gunfight: Army

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Srinagar, Feb 23 (UNI) The Army in here today said it had observed maximum restraint and adopted a professional approach in the gunfight with militants at Dodipora in Handwara yesterday in which four youth were killed, and blamed ultras for initial fire.

''We used very little fire. Only 27 rounds from both the rifles and the LMGs were used by the Army in the gunfight. This is a very small number in any such given situation,'' General Officer in Commanding (GOC) XV Corps Lt Gen S S Dhillon told journalists here.

He said the Army observed much restraint and displayed high professionalism in exchange of fire that took place at Dodipora.

''We have no doubt and are certain about three things - that the militants (about three to four in number) were present in the village, they opened the initial fire and not by the Army and thirdly we were very much restrained and professional in the gunfight,'' Gen Dhillon added.

He said the allegations and the attempt to unnecessarily create a hysteria that the Army had deliberately killed the innocent youth was far from truth.

''We are a very responsible Army. We carry out these operations everyday in some part of the Kashmir valley. We are aware of what we are doing...the procedures and drills,'' the Corps Commander said.

Gen Dhillon termed as ''unfortunate'' the killing of the innocent youth and offered condolences to the families of the victims.

''The incident is really unfortunate...something which we would not have desired,'' he added.

The GOC said while three youth -- Amir Akbar, Shakir Wani and Ghulam Hassan Bhat -- were innocent civilians, the fourth Samad Mir was an overground worker of the banned Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT).

He said Samad Mir was deeply involved with the militants and had been in the police custody from July to September last year.

Samad Mir was killed with a pouch belt which carried ammunition stuck on to his body, Lt Gen Dhillon added.

Giving the Army version of the incident, Lt Gen Dhillon said at around 1300 hrs yesterday, information was recieved by troops that about three to four militants were hiding in a house at Dodipora village, four km from Handwara in north Kashmir's Kupwara district.

He said the Army immediately cordoned off the area. But before troops could reach the village and establish a cordon, militants opened fire on them.

In normal procedure, the Army first establishes cordon and sanitise the area besides evacuate women and children and then launch the operation, the Corps Commander said.

''We are quite aware of the procedure and have been doing this for the past several years day in and day out,'' he added.

However, Gen Dhillon said in this particular case the militants first opened fire before the Army could establish the cordon.

In the initial fire of burst by the militants, they specifically targetted Samad Mir alias Rahil, mistaking him for an Army informer.

The GOC said unfortunately a child standing next to Samad Mir also got killed in the exchange of fire.

The Army then retaliated and in the gunfght two more civilians got killed, he said, adding the militants managed to escape taking advantage of the confusion.

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