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Pakistan counterterrorism officers arrested after killing family they claimed were insurgents

  • Wounded boy, whose parents were shot dead, said they were on their way to a wedding when they were pulled over and armed police opened fire on vehicle
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 January, 2019, 6:48pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 January, 2019, 9:20pm

Authorities in Pakistan have arrested more than a dozen counterterrorism officers after police shot and killed a middle-aged couple, their 13-year-old daughter and another man in what they initially claimed was a shoot-out with insurgents, officials said on Sunday.

The police killed grocery store owner Mohammad Khalil, his wife Nabila, their daughter Areeba and a family friend, Zeeshan Javed, after stopping their vehicle late on Saturday.

Police said Javed was a wanted terrorist and initially accused him of using the others as human shields.

Family members and witnesses say police killed the four in cold blood.

They say police drove into the back of the vehicle to stop it after a car chase. The police then removed three small children from the car before opening fire, killing everyone inside, according to the witnesses.

Video filmed by a bystander and aired by Pakistani media appears to support the witnesses’ accounts. No weapons were found at the scene.

The shooting sparked widespread outrage, with hundreds of mourners gathering in the eastern city of Lahore, where the victims of the shooting lived, and chanting against the police.

In the initial report, senior officer Rai Tahir said insurgents travelling in a car opened fire when police stopped them. He said the police officers were acting on intelligence gleaned from a previous operation.

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Tahir said three suspects escaped on a motorcycle and are being pursued by police, adding that insurgents often use women and children as human shields during travel.

Police had earlier said that Javed, who was driving the car, was on the country’s wanted terrorist list.

Khalil’s wounded son, Umair, told a local television reporter that the family was going to a wedding.

Local residents left the bodies in the middle of the road as a form of protest following Saturday’s shooting, which took place in the nearby town of Sahiwal.

Authorities say they have launched an investigation and arrested 16 officers they say were involved in the shooting.

Prime Minister Imran Khan wrote on Twitter that he was “shocked at seeing the traumatised children who saw their parents shot before their eyes” and promised that “swift action will be taken”.

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Usman Buzdar, the chief minister in the Punjab province, met the family and promised that justice would be served.

Pakistan’s security forces have been accused of extrajudicial killings in the past.

In one of the most notorious incidents, a police officer was accused of killing a 27-year-old aspiring fashion model from a prominent Pashtun tribe last January, sparking widespread protests and allegations of police brutality. The officer was suspended and placed under house arrest pending trial.