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Indian Soldiers to Face Court Martial for Killings

Srinagar, Kashmir - The Indian Army Wednesday said it had initiated court martial proceedings against six of its men, including two officers, for their alleged involvement in the murders of three civilians in Kashmir in 2010.

Army sources said a colonel, a major and four soldiers of a unit will face proceedings on charges of murder, abduction and criminal conspiracy.

"A court martial was ordered last week after a comprehensive inquiry was conducted with help of the state police and judicial department," an army official said, requesting anonymity.

"The delay was on account of recalling witnesses and collecting evidence against the accused personnel," he said.

On April 30, 2010, the army claimed that it had foiled an infiltration attempt by three militants along the de facto border that divides the Kashmir region between India and Pakistan.

But state police later found the three men were innocent civilians reported missing from India-administered Kashmir's Baramullah district.

Widespread demonstrations followed over the next two months with protestors demanding action against the soldiers.

Army officials said the accused could be handed "exemplary punishment."

"The move highlights the army's resolve to ensure justice. (The accused) could most probably lose their jobs and perks and could even be jailed. But this will be clear after the court martial, that should take a little more time," the official said.

There have been several complaints of rights abuses by the armed forces posted in large numbers in Kashmir to contain militancy.

More than 45,000 people have died in a violent separatist insurgency in the region since the 1980s. The victims include civilians, police, soldiers and militants.

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