India

Kashmir: India army says sorry over teenager deaths

Kashmiri Muslim women mourn, during the funeral of two civilians shot dead by Indian army soldiers in Srinagar (November 8 2014) Image copyright AFP
Image caption The shooting of the teenagers has caused intense public grieving throughout Srinagar

The Indian army has issued an unusual apology for shooting dead two teenage boys in Indian-administered Kashmir.

The army says it made a mistake in firing at a car they were travelling in on the outskirts of Srinagar on Monday.

Correspondents say it is rare for the army to admit such an error in such speedy and unambiguous terms.

A senior army commander based in the Jammu region flew especially to Srinagar to address the media in the aftermath of the deaths.

"We take responsibility for the death of the two boys in Kashmir," the chief of the army's northern command, DS Hooda, told reporters late on Friday.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Separatists imposed a shutdown in Srinagar earlier this week in protest over the killings
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The army rarely admits mistakes in Indian-administered Kashmir

"We admit a mistake was made... There was some information about a white car with terrorists. Obviously, the identity was mistaken in this case," he said.

Gen Hooda promised an enquiry into the deaths would be carried out with "the highest standard of transparency".

Anger has been rising in the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley over the killings. Indian newspapers including the Hindustan Times have reported that the army's swift apology was aimed at dampening public anger.

The newspaper reports that the car in which the teenagers were travelling was hit by 32 bullets. It quotes a senior army officer as saying it should not have been shot at with automatic weapons when no threat was posed to the soldiers concerned.

Families of the youths killed have turned down the army's offer of one million rupees ($16,283) as compensation.

"The blood of my 14-year-old son is not so cheap that I would barter it. I reject this compensation," Mohammad Yousuf Bhat, one of the fathers, was quoted by the Times of India newspaper as saying on Saturday.

The territory of Kashmir - roughly two-thirds of which is in India and one-third in Pakistan - is claimed by both countries in its entirety.

It has been a flashpoint for more than 60 years and the South Asian rivals have fought two wars and a limited conflict over the region.

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