Pakistan army begin probe into Kashmir 'torture' death

A Pakistani soldier watches Indian soldiers at the Tattapani-Mendher crossing point on the Line of Control, some 35km from Kotli, in Pakistani administered Kashmir, 09 September 2006 The alleged death in detention happened close to the site of recent cross-border clashes

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The army in Pakistani-administered Kashmir says it is investigating the alleged torture of a local youth that led to his death last week.

Ali Murtaza's family say he died while held by the army's secret service near a border checkpoint in Kotli sector.

The killing has generated anger and calls for a "fair inquiry" both from the media and civil society.

The incident comes in the wake of recent tension between India and Pakistan along the Kashmir border.

Six soldiers have been killed in tit-for-tat attacks in recent weeks.

'Witnesses'

Members of Mr Murtaza's family told BBC that he went missing on 17 February when he left his home to visit relatives in a village close to the Line of Control (LoC), the de-facto border across the divided Kashmir region.

According to them, his body was delivered to the family three days later by the local administration of Kotli district.

"He died in the custody of the army, and he was tortured," Chaudhry Mehboob, a member of the legislative council of Pakistani-administered Kashmir and a relative of Mr Murtaza, told the BBC.

He said there were witnesses who saw him being taken away by intelligence officials near a border post in Khui Ratta, close to where a Pakistani soldier was killed by Indian forces after reportedly "straying" onto the Indian side.

Mr Mehboob said that local residents told the intelligence personnel that Mr Murtaza was a local man who had mostly lived in Lahore city. Officials reportedly responded by saying they would release him after putting some questions to him.

The family have shared pictures with the BBC that show bruises and red patches all over the dead body, indicating torture.

The death has caused widespread reaction in the Kashmiri media, where fingers have been pointed at military intelligence officials.

Several political groups have meanwhile staged protests over the killing and have called for a transparent inquiry.

A top military official in the region told BBC an inquiry had been ordered into the killing.

Earlier, the head of the Kotli district administration, Masoodur Rahman, issued a statement in which he assured the protesters that the family would be kept informed of the proceedings of the inquiry.

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