Families dispute India claims slain youths were Kashmir rebels

SRINAGAR, INDIA (AFP) – Families of two teenage boys and a young man killed in Indian-administered Kashmir on Wednesday by government forces during an alleged firefight have denied they were militants – a rare protest in the restive Himalayan region.

Police said the trio were killed in a 20-hour gun battle on the outskirts of the region’s main city of Srinagar after they were cornered inside a home on Tuesday.

“Repeated announcements were made to the hiding terrorists to lay down their illegal weapons and surrender,” police said in a statement.

“Instead, the hiding terrorists fired continuously upon the searching party.”

But relatives of the trio disputed the story and protested outside a police building in Srinagar where the bodies were being kept.

“Yesterday at 10 in the morning, he had tea with me,” Bashir Ahmad Ganai, the grandfather of one of the slain youths, Aijaz Maqbool, told reporters.

“We don’t know where he was picked up from and later killed. What is going on in Kashmir?” Ganai said.

The families of the other two – high school student Athar Mushtaq and carpenter Zubair – also insisted they were innocent.

Parents of the students said they had been on their way to receive private tutoring in Srinagar.