Hyderabad: The Telangana police on Friday said its personnel resorted to "retaliatory" firing after two of the accused in the rape and murder of a woman veterinarian opened fire at police after snatching weapons from them this morning.
Cyberabad Police Commissioner C V Sajjanar said one of the accused, Mohammed Arif, was the first to open fire, even as the police team that took them to the crime scene were attacked with stones and sticks.
The police returned fire after initial "restraint" and asking the accused to surrender, he told reporters here.
The snatched weapons were in "unlocked" position, he added.
The accused were not handcuffed when the firing took place and the incident happened between 5:45am and 6:15am, he said.
Detailing the events leading to the exchange of fire, Sajjanar said the police team comprising ten police officials brought the accused to the location based on their 'confession' to recover a cellphone and 'other objects.'
"... all the four accused got together, they started attacking the police party with stones, sticks, and other material. And they also they snatched away weapons from our two officers and started firing," he said.
"Even though our officers maintained restraint and asked them to surrender, without listening to us, they continued to fire and attack... our people started retaliation. And in that retaliation four accused got killed," he said adding after examination all the four bodies were found with bullet injuries.
Prime accused Arif started attacking the police party followed by another accused, Chennakeshavulu.
"The duo was found with the weapons that were snatched from police officials and from which they opened the fire on the police," he said.
The injured, a police sub-inspector and a constable, suffered head injuries among others and were undergoing treatment and there were no bullet injuries on the policemen, he said.
The police were collecting data from other parts of the state, besides Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka on similar cases to ascertain if the four had any role in them, Sajjanar added.
He said on November 27, the woman veterinarian was kidnapped and sexually assaulted and later found murdered and the accused subsequently burned the body.
Ten teams were formed to crack the case, Sajjanar said pointing out they collected a lot of scientific evidence and based on human intelligence the four accused were apprehended from Makthal mandal of Narayanpet district on November 29.
On November 30 they were sent to judicial remand and lodged in Cherlapally Central Prison in Hyderabad.
On November 2, a magistrate court allowed a petition by the police for 10 days custody and on December 4 and 5 they were taken into police custody and interrogated.
Basing on their confession, the four accused were brought to the scene of the crime on Friday morning to recover the material objects--cellphone, power bank and watch, he said.
"In the last four days we have done DNA profiling of the victim and also the accused. We collected a lot of scientific evidence to prove the crime against the four accused," Sajjanar said.
The Commissioner said the police suspected the four accused may be involved in similar such offences.
"We are collecting data from Telangana, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh about burnt bodies of women and also of cases pertaining to missing women. Once the data comes we will analyse it about their involvement," he said.
About the criticism and also the NHRC notice, Sajjanar said "Law has done its duty and that's what I can say. We will tell them about the investigation. We will answer and send the report to the government and the NHRC. They were killed in exchange of fire."
Asked why the four accused taken to the scene of offence (where the body was found burnt) in the early hours, the Commissioner said they were facing lot of threat and hence brought there early in the morning.
Earlier, public anger over the rape and murder of the woman was evident on Saturday last as a restive crowd pelted stones at a police vehicle carrying them to jail.
NHRC orders inquiry
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) took cognisance of the encounter killings and ordered an inquiry on Friday.
The apex human rights body in the country said the encounter was a matter of concern and needed to be probed carefully.
"The commission is of the opinion that this matter is required to be probed very carefully. Accordingly, it has asked its Director General (Investigation) to immediately send a team for a fact-finding, on-the-spot investigation into the matter," the NHRC said.
The team from the investigation division of the commission, headed by a senior superintendent of police (SSP), was expected to leave for Hyderabad immediately and submit its report at the earliest, the commission said.
The incident clearly indicated that the police personnel were not "properly alert" and "prepared for any untoward activity by the accused on the spot", which resulted in the death of all four, it added.
Pointing out that the deceased was arrested by the police during investigation and a judgment was yet to be pronounced, the rights body said if the arrested persons were actually guilty, they were to be punished in accordance with law.
The NHRC had earlier said there was an absence of a "Standard Operating Procedure" for the police to immediately respond to panic situations.
"The commission has been insisting upon all law-enforcing agencies to keep the human rights angle in their view while dealing with the persons arrested by them or being kept in their custody.
(With PTI inputs)