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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Indian police on Friday shot dead four men accused of the gang rape and killing of a 27-year-old woman that sparked nationwide protests.
The men were killed while trying to escape during a re-enactment of the crime in the southern city of Hyderabad, a top police officer said.
"In the morning, at around 6-6.30, our persons have come to reconstruct the scene of crime and the accused have tried to snatch their weapons, and there was a cross-fire. In this, all the four accused have died. Two policemen have been injured," said N Prakash Reddy, a deputy commissioner of police in Shamshabad, near Hyderabad.
"We called an ambulance but they died before any medical help could reach them."
Earlier a local police official had put the time of the deaths at around 3.30am. There was no immediate explanation for the discrepancy.
Indian police have frequently been accused of extra-judicial killings, called "encounters", especially in gangland wars in Mumbai and insurrections in Punjab and Kashmir. Top police officers involved in such killings were called "encounter specialists" and were the subject of several movies.
The four men killed on Friday were arrested last week on charges of raping, murdering and burning the body of the veterinary doctor, who had parked her scooter on a busy highway on November 27.
The men deflated her scooter tyre and lured her to a truck yard with the promise of fixing the machine, according to police.
They allegedly then raped and murdered the woman before setting the body on fire under an isolated bridge.
The crime sparked nationwide outrage in India, which has been in the international spotlight over its handling of such cases since the gang rape and murder of a student on a bus in New Delhi in 2012. Over the past week, thousands of people staged protests in several cities.
The victim's father welcomed the news of the killing of the suspects. "It has been 10 days to the day my daughter died. I express my gratitude towards the police and government for this. My daughter’s soul must be at peace now," the ANI news agency quoted him as saying.
Many Indians seemed to applaud the killings, writing messages in support of the police on Twitter.
Lallu Singh, an MP from India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, congratulated the police for "bringing justice to the veterinarian doctor".
"Quick Justice like this will inculcate fear into the Dirty minds. Our sincere prayers have been answered #hyderabadpolice Hats off," actress Ammu Abhirami posted.
"Not sure whether this is right or wrong but feeling very happy..just hope and pray that the ones killed were the real criminals..#hyderabadpolice," wrote another Twitter user.
In Uttar Pradesh state, where a rape victim was set ablaze on Thursday while she was on her way to court, opposition politician Mayawati said the police there should take "inspiration" from what happened in Hyderabad.
Indian police registered more than 32,500 cases of rape in 2017, according to the most recent government data. But courts disposed of only about 18,300 cases related to rape that year, leaving more than 127,800 cases pending at the end of 2017.
But some people said the lack of progress in the courts did not mean the police had a free hand to dispense justice.
"This isn't instant justice – this is the absence of justice. We're not going to make women safer by abandoning the rule of law – is that so hard to understand?," said Rukmini S, an Indian columnist in a tweet.
Supreme Court lawyer Vrinda Grover said the police who were involved in Friday's incident should face an inquiry, but in all likelihood would be rewarded with medals. "Killing accused like this is a short cut, but in the long run this won't work, it will carry its own consequences."
Updated: December 6, 2019 10:48 AM
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