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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 February 2019

Pakistan arrests 16 policemen over killing of civilians

Middle-aged couple, their daughter and a friend were chased and shot dead in their car

Relatives and residents block a road in Lahore, Pakistan to protest against killing of a family by counter-terrorism officers on January 20, 2019. AP Photo
Relatives and residents block a road in Lahore, Pakistan to protest against killing of a family by counter-terrorism officers on January 20, 2019. AP Photo

Authorities in Pakistan have arrested more than a dozen counter-terrorism 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 shootout with insurgents.

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 rammed their car to stop it after a chase. They then removed three small children from the vehicle before opening fire, killing everyone inside, according to the witnesses. Video footage shot by a bystander and aired by Pakistani media appears to support the witnesses' accounts. No weapons were found at the scene.

Hadiya Khalil, left, was removed from the car along with two siblings before the police officers opened fire. AP Photo
Hadiya Khalil, left, was removed from the car along with two siblings before the police officers opened fire. AP Photo

The shooting sparked widespread outrage, with hundreds of mourners gathering in the eastern city of Lahore, where the victims lived, and chanting against the police. Residents of the area left the bodies in the road as a form of protest after the shooting, which took place in the nearby town of Sahiwal.

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

Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted that he was "shocked at seeing the traumatised children who saw their parents shot before their eyes" and said "swift action will be taken". Usman Buzdar, the chief minister in the Punjab province, met members of 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.

Updated: January 20, 2019 02:22 PM

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