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DAMNING: ATS chief's 'unarmed' stand big blow to MP govt's SIMI encounter story

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Principal Correspondent

BHOPAL: The MP Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) chief's statement that the eight SIMI operatives were not armed at the time they were gunned down, has come as a big blow to the state government's encounter story.

ATS chief Sanjeev Shami has maintained that the operatives were unarmed when the encounter took place at Acharpura in the outskirts of Bhopal.

This is in sharp constrat to the IG Bhopal's claims that the SIMI operatives were armed.

In fact, in the press conference the police official had said that weapons including firearms were seized from the slain operatives.

But ATS chief who had also visited Acharpura has been firm on his stand and again said it, while talking to NDTV journalist Sreenivasan Jain on camera.

However, NDTV reported, Sanjeev Shami added, "It is well settled in law when police can use force and take life. These men were dreaded criminals. If the police sees the possibility that such men can escape, they can use maximum force."

Meanwhile, state government has already felicitated the police officers who were part of the encounter publicly. With several groups ready to file petition in High court, the high-profile 'encounter' would come under judicial scanner soon.

The National Human Rights Commission and the MP Human Rights Commission have also sought reports from the MP government about the encounter. The state government has ordered a CID inquiry on its part.

The ATS chief's stand however corroborates claim of a large number of villagers in the vicinity of the encounter spot (as told to local and national media journalists) that the SIMI men did not carry any firearm and threw stones at police when cornered.

The videos of the encounter that have become viral also show no firearm near the dead bodies or earlier when they are seen trying to interact with the police from the hilltop.

IG Bhopal Yogesh Chaudhary said in a press conference that SIMI operatives had firearms but accepted that none of the policemen suffered bullet injuries.

Already, Home minister Bhupendra Singh's statement that the absconders were armed with spoons turned into knives and used wooden keys to open cell locks, has caused major controversy.  He had also said initially that they didn't have arms.

Insiders say that ATS chief's strong stand clearly shows that there are major loopholes in the police story, and that's the reason he hasn't sided with it.

Videos after videos of the encounter are also emerging showing that policemen were firing at the bodies despite the SIMI men being already dead or totally immobile.

Overall, if and when the encounter is subject to scrutiny, the policemen involved are likely to get into big trouble, experts say.