Indian police shot dead four men on Friday who were suspected of raping and killing a 27-year-old veterinarian near Hyderabad city, drawing applause from her family and hundreds of citizens outraged over sexual violence against women.
The men had been in police custody and were shot dead near the scene of last week’s crime where they tried to snatch the weapons of accompanying policemen, said N. Prakash Reddy, a deputy commissioner of police in Shamshabad, near Hyderabad.
During the past week, thousands of Indians protested in several cities following the alleged rape and murder of the veterinarian, the latest in a series of horrific cases of sexual assault in the country.
The woman had left home for an appointment on her motor-scooter and later called her sister to say she had a flat tire. She said a truck driver had offered to help and that she was waiting near a toll plaza.
Police said she was abducted, raped and asphyxiated and her dead body then set alight on the outskirts of Hyderabad. Four men were arrested.
Reddy, the police officer, said that the men — two truck drivers and two truck cleaners, aged between 20 and 26 years — had been taken to the spot to re-construct the crime around 6 a.m. (7:30 p.m. ET) on Friday.
“And there was a cross-fire. In this, all the four accused have died,” Reddy said. “Two policemen have been injured.”
He did not immediately provide details on how many police had escorted the four accused and whether they were handcuffed or roped together as is usually the case.
Earlier a local police official had put the time of the deaths at around 3:30 a.m. 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 the state of Punjab and in disputed Kashmir. Police officers involved in such killings were called “encounter specialists” and were the subject of several movies.
The victim’s family welcomed the news of the killings of the alleged perpetrators.
“It has been 10 days to the day my daughter died. I express my gratitude toward the police and government for this. My daughter’s soul must be at peace now,” Reuters partner ANI quoted her father as saying.
A Reuters reporter saw the bodies of the four men lying in an open field, two of them face up, clothes stained with blood and barefoot, surrounded by policemen.
A large crowd had gathered at the site of the shooting and threw flower petals at police vans in support of the action. Some shouted “Long live police”; others hoisted police officials onto their shoulders and burst crackers.