SHRC: The Salian Massacre Report


Survivors of the Salian massacre in Surnakot (Poonch) had filed a writ petition seeking investigations in the tragedy. The petition was filed in November 2011. After a series of hearings, Justice Muzaffar Hussain Attar on November 21, 2012 directed CBI to take over the investigations of the case in which 19 members of an extended family were brutally killed. The initial investigations were carried out by the SHRC. Given the public importance associated with the case, Kashmir Life reproduces the entire SHRC report with special thanks to correspondent Saima Bhat who transcribed the long report to make it available for the online readers. Words that were not readable are marked xxxxx.

J&K the State Human Rights Commission, Camp Surankot, Poonch

Dated: 09-09-1998
Present: Hon’ble Justice G A Kuchhai- chairperson

Consequent to D.O letter from commissioner/ secretary home department J&K government dated 04-09-1998 to the address of u/s as chairperson State Human Rights Commission for spot visit to Sailan, Surankot for probe into the killing of 19 persons. I along with two staff members flew to the destination indicated in D.O.

In addition a complaint was presented on xxxx regarding the same matter. The complaint presented at surankot by the residents of Sailin village through xxxx Aftab Azad straight way in unambiguous words lay the xxxx on 9 paras, an army unit ticketing in the village, who are alleged to have run xxxxx on the day of occurrence, that is, 3/4th August, 1998 having committed the heinous crime by killing 19 innocent persons in a barbarous manner in association of Zakir’s associates, SPOs on getting provoked due to his killings by militants on the same day. Zakir as said was chief informer about militants to the army. The villagers have alleged jawans of 9 paras and associates of Zakir Hussain slain SPO had openly declared they will take a revenge by killing all near relatives of Imtiyaz, militant, who was suspected behind the killing of Zakir SPO. The complaint has been forwarded by the public to eight addresses including the defense minister of India, Sh George Fernandes.

On  reaching Surankot, Ponch at 9:30 am, I along with the district development commissioner, Mr M S Khan, SP (OPNS) Surankot, Mr Sewak Sing. Some other officials, near relatives of killed and some local residents of Surankot proceeded to the spot at Sailin, where killing had taken place. The commission had to foot the distance of more than xxxx Kms on a hilly path quite steep to the place of occurrence. The house of Hassan Muhammad deceased where the entire killings had take place was inspected though the near ones of the deceased people had mud plastered walls and floor of the house for religious ceremony “chehlum” of the deceased. The walls were exhibiting bullet holes.  The residents on spot exhibited a blanket which was bearing numerous bullet holes possibly bullets having being showered on some inmate who was intended to be killed, may be in sleeping state. Two metal utensils, one used for flour mixing were exhibited bearing bullet holes attempted by some deceased as a shield to protect themselves from rain of bullets. One dirty quilt drenched in blood was also shown on the spot.

On the scene of occurrence in a big gathering of officials and civilians, I made all to understand that a fact finding report is being prepared for which all present, concerned or unconcerned having any knowledge of the occurrence of 3/4th august, 1998 were informed rather invited to participate in the enquiry by giving oral statements, affidavits or any other material giving clue of the inhuman occurrence on the spot. To this effect a written hand notice was also prepared and pasted on the walls of the house of Hassan Muhammad Sheikh deceased. The notice was given to the police personnel of the district as well. A notice directed to be served on the local army unit for purposes of collecting information in accordance with the provisions of Human Rights Protection Act, 1997. The notice was handed over to SP (Opns) Surankot also orally directed to inform the army, who in turn on spot expressed that army will not participate but wants independent enquiry to be conducted. After completion of inspection decide, the Commission returned back to Surankot, the Commission came then to Poonch  for overnight stay, to come again Surankot for oral enquiry in the Dak Bungalow following day.

Under the J&K protection of Human Rights Act, 1997, there is no clear bar to enquiry matter pertaining to army as provided in the National Human Rights Act, 1993.  Section 24 of the state act in chapter VII under the heading of miscellaneous provides as under

24. Matters not subject to the jurisdiction of the Commission- (1) the commission shall not inquire in nay matter which is pending before any other commission duly constituted under any law for the time being in force. (2)  The commission shall not inquire any complaint regarding to a matter not falling within its jurisdiction but may forward same the same to a forum having jurisdiction to entertain the same.

Sub section (2) as quoted, bars the Commission to enquire into any complaint without indicating any particular matter not falling within its jurisdiction but to forward the same to a forum having jurisdiction to entertain the same. The provision does not bar entertainment or the complaint but only enquiry, that means anybody or any matter which does not fall within the jurisdiction of SHRC have to be challenged before it, rather privilege taken. In the case in hand, the allegation of killing of 19 souls is by unidentified armed persons. Thus the commission, short of any identification or the assailants has to proceed to holed fact finding enquiry. As the matter of precaution the commission made efforts to serve the army personnel, who for some reasons could not participate in the enquiry. The commission has power to record statements of the witnesses having knowledge of the occurrence or anyway connected to the same and cannot bar a witness to depose against any person whether privileged or unprivileged. The commission is aware of the constitutional provisions contained in list one scheduled vii of constitution of India and under that shadow will hold the enquiry entrusted also otherwise empowered to do so under the act. Among other powers related to inquiries by the commission under section 14 of the J&K Human Rights Protection Act, 1997, clause 2, the commission has power to require any person, subject to any privilege which may be claimed by that person under any law for any time being in force to furnish information on such points or matters which may be useful or relevant on the matter of the enquiry. It is under this provision; notice was issued through authorities to para troopers and the army personnel who, however, did not join.

Sailan village, where 19 souls, men, women and children got brutally killed, situated at a distance of 14-15 Kms from Surankot town on one side of Mughal road, in a steep state where residential houses are with population of 1988 persons. There is an army camp, 9 paras at a distance of about 200 feet on the upper ridge of the Sailan village, from the house of Hassan Muhammad Sheikh deceased, the scene of occurrence. The residential houses are camouflaged by maize crop.  There is a Nallah Suran, flowing below the Mughal road, separating Baffliyaz forest again a steep area, where local people allege militants mostly making their hideouts.

On reaching Surankot from Poonch at about 9:30am, I inspected the graveyard where 19 persons killed (6 male and 13 female) were buried. The residential accommodation xxxx fear stricken migrants of Sailan village, a section of them housed in the revenue complex provided by the district authorities. In the rooms of the revenue complex, the allotment of the persons male, female and children in groups was quite disproportionate to the limited space, which as under for sitting, sleeping and cooking short of any floor covering. The old, young, male and female laying on the naked cement floor.  The human beings adjusted in the rooms where thrusted like cattle, because of limited space available, though some people had hired accommodation in the market where build up vacant spaces otherwise in scarce. The migrants for forty days from the date occurrence xxxx were seen in a state of shock, particularly the women which include young grown up girls could not express except eyes tearful.  In one room occupied by Khazir Sheikh son of Ramzanee, Muhammad Shafi Dar Son of Muhammad Dar there were 30 persons men, women and children lodged giving a pathetic plight, the other room occupied were almost in a similar state. On oral enquiry regarding any relief awarded, the migrants, who were forced to leave their houses out of fear revealed that no relief has been distributed and they have been left helpless to purchase every time in the hour of distress from their meager earning in open market.

The district development commissioner, Poonch, however, told me that for the first week the migrants were provided food articles. Further, one Mr Muhammad Zaman, local advocate, chairman (Human Rights Poonch) NGO’s also said that their organization helped the migrants by some cash amount, but all appeared insufficient. The DDC (Mr M S Khan) was requested on spot to come to the rescue of migrants in distributing some relief. Since the migrants of Sailan have seen their co neighbors, relatives killed in heaps, not only by rain of bullets but brutally their organs amputated by axe, even the ladies old and young molested. It will take some time more for these unfortunate people to reconcile the situation faced and in this hour of need and interim report dated 14-09-1998 for relief stands submitted to the government. These threatened people cannot afford to continue in the town at the cost of losing their maize crop, about to be harvested, life stock, houses with poor nature, house hold articles.

Coming to the real issue how the inhuman rather barbarous occurrence took place. I had on 09-09-1998 itself on the spot informed all concerned orally as well as by written notice having knowledge of the occurrence in any way to participate in the enquiry to be conducted on 10-09-1998 at Surankot. I may at the very outset observed that army personnel, para troopers and the local police except SHO police station Surankot, did not come forward to participate in the enquiry, not even the local army unit of the 1999 RR alleged behind the killing, camping at a distance of only 700 feets from the scene of occurrence attend the enquiry to assess the commission to give information. However, on commencing enquiry at Surakot Dak Bangalow, I examined eight witnesses mainly Hassan Muhammad Shiekh, Aftab Azad, Muhammad Shabir, Muhammad Rafiq, Muhammad Afzal, Abdul Kareem Sheikh, Dr Mumtaz Hussain and Jagat Singh SHO only. Bulk of the witnesses rather a huge gathering, who had accompanied the commission to the scene of occurrence on 09-09-1998, were jubilant to depose and cooperate with the Commission on day of enquiry, lagged behind projecting little number of witnesses named came forward to depose. The reason for not coming forward was orally expressed xxxx of the army who are in control of the area and three SPOs associates of the  slain Zakir Hussain, after the commission leaves the area, with fear they meet the same fate as the 19 persons killed. Even the civilians witnessed examined have expressed apprehension of danger to their life after the commission leaves the area and demanded security to be provided otherwise will get killed. While leaving Poonch Mr J P Singh, SP Poonch was orally directed to provide security to the witnesses examined.

The killing of 19 innocent souls has background, one Imtiyaz son of Lassa Sheikh victim deceased an active and dreaded underground militant having escaped once after being arrested by security forces earlier now at large has some more associates of the area, is wanted by security forces and being xxxxx by Zakir Hussain SPO slain and his three associates including the army to knowledge of all, also may have been the Imtiyaz militant in association of his group with foreign mercenaries operating in the area to do away with Zakir Husain and his SPO associates.

As Zakir was the chief source of army in the area, the army never wanted to lose him even at the cost of causalities. On the fate full day of 03-09-1998 at about noon two buses came across on the main road below Sailan village, one was boarded by Zakir slain SPO from Surankot side, while another boarded by three unidentified militants, coming from Bafalyaz side, possibly Zakir slain SPO on sighting the militants from the opposite side jumped from his bus, ran towards Surankot, firing from his weapon backward on militants but two militants came out of the opposite bus, opened fire and showered bullets on Zakir Hussain SPO who fell dead on the road. The militants approached his dead body after search took something from the body, may be weapon etc, ran away back towards to Bafalyaz side in the same bus.

The relations of Zakir SPO slain and army reached on spot  after sometime lifted the body of Zakir Hussain, SPO with a vow by army declaring that they will take revenge of Zakir deceased by killing 19/20 persons before his burial. This was heard by a passerby witness while the Zakir’s body was being removed from the scene. This incident kindled the fire of killing.

The killing of Zakir Hussain, SPO during time, after alleged vow by the forces to be taken 20 lives in lieu, is immediately within night hours followed by brutal killing of 19 persons belonging to the families of Lassa Sheikh, deceased father of Imtiyaz militant and Ahmad Din deceased inter related families whose houses are interconnected from roof of Ahmad Din’s house serving compound to Hassan Muhammad house where the incident has taken place.

One fact which should not be left unnoticed to draw the conclusion by even a lay man is that army camp of 9 paras is hardly at a distance of 700 feet from the scene of occurrence where blood bath of 19 persons has taken place at dead of night, short of any other noise or sound except firing, cries of killed did not attract the attention of 9 paras, who are camping nearby within the radius of human cry not to speak of firing sounds. The army camp established near the dreaded spot is to combat terrorism in the area and suppose to be vigilant round the clock say day and night. Why the fire sounds could not reach the army camp? Why army personnel as usual did not come to the spot is a matter of surprise, this question could be replied by the army unit alone forming the picket near the occurrence.  The silence of the army xxxx leads to positive conclusion that associates of Zakir slain SPO group to take revenge of day time incident, planned the attack, in question, by taking aid or the force, may be the force  to which Zakir  slain SPO served as source, who had promised to take the revenge of his killing.

These are fact finding observations which cannot be avoided to be brought on record despite the constitutional provision not to enquire against the armed forces falling under list 1 of VII schedule of the constitution of India. As per the direct circumstantial evidence gathered, it is difficult to twist that occurrence though decidedly due to rivalry of militant groups, anti government lead by Mumtaz Sheikh and pro government Zakir slain SPO supported by army indicated in the complaint, presented on spot by residents of Sailan village together with a complaint received by registered post from one Taj Hussain, advocate Poonch. The killing of 19 persons could not be an independent act, without planning, short of support by the force. It was expressed orally by the masses that why Imtiyaz’s family and his relatives gets killed by militants, when Imtiyaz Sheikh, militant is in command of local group of militants, in league even with foreign militants. The locals who gathered their with one voice ruled one the participation of local militants even foreign mercenaries in the killing of 19 persons and gave them a clean chit of not being responsible for the gruesome act. What was gathered from the expression of the locals who did not record their statements out of fear that the massacre of innocents has taken place at the hands of Zakir’s SPOs associates groups and his relations with the alleged support of local army to whom Zakir was a chief informer. This fact has been testified by Shabir, witnessed who alone survived the attack on 3/4th August intervening night and has given the detailed account of occurrence having gone out to ease himself at that time. He deposed having seen uniformed men moving down, using path with torches in hands, then noise of vehicles on the main road. Civil traffic at mid night in the area is unimaginable on the road or otherwise where army is in control having ordered the local people to move out after 6:30 pm as deposed by Hassan Muhammad, Aftab Azad, even orally expressed by the gathering. No counter evidence came forward to rebut the testimony of witnesses recorded or the written complaint presented and received later.

The report is based mainly on the deposition of witnesses recorded on the spot mainly 1. Hassan Muhammad Sheikh 2. Aftab Azad 3. Muhammad Shabir 4. Muhammad Rafiq Sheikh 5. Muhammad Afzal and 6. Abdul Karim Sheikh.

I deem it proper to reproduce the summary of the witnesses here under:

Hassan Muhammad Deposes having witnessed the killing of Zakir Hussain SPO by unidentified armed men on 03-08-1998 daytime. He further deposes that army did not allow the civilians to move out from their houses after 6:30pm. His house is situated at a distance of ? kms away from the Imtiyaz militants’ house son of Lassa Sheikh deceased. Some other agency other than militants has made the killing who he can not name apprehending danger.

Aftab Azad The occurrence took place during the intervening night of 3/4th August 1998. About days earlier a rumor had spread that Imtiyaz had come in the village, who is a underground militant son of Lassa Sheikh deceased. The security forces had raided the house of Imtiyaz but could not locate him and a beating was administered on his home people. There was a rumor that Imtiyaz had a group of 4-5 militants. On 03-08-1998 he had gone to his sisters house where he saw two buses plying on the main road, one coming from Surankot side and other from opposite side. One person jumped from the bus which was coming from Surankot side and started running on the road and started to fire backwards, when he was fired by the occupants of the other bus. He fell on the road side and his body was searched, something taken away. There is a picket at a distance of 200 mtrs from the house of Lassa Sheikh. He heard firing and people moving around the house of Lassa Sheikh holding torch lights presuming that army personnel might have come to Lassa Sheikh’s house in search of Imtiyaz, militant. He heard movement of vehicles on the main road with headlight of one vehicle on, then saw villagers of Sailan 4th of August 1998 at 8:00 am crying and coming towards Surankot. He went on the spot along with other people where he saw heaps of dead bodies drenched in blood. He came to know the person killed on 03-08-1998 was a surrendered militant. The killing had taken place in the house of Imtiyaz, militant. The militants could not kill the home people of another militant. I lift some shells of bullets which are presented.

Muhammad Shabir son of Ahmad Din Deceased victim of occurrence has stated one Zakir resident of Munda Gujjar who was militant surrendered before security forces and recruited as SPO.  He was attached to 9 para commandos at Bafalyaz. He has three more associates. Zakir SPO was searching militants who was killed on the road side on 03-08-1998. On receiving the information, army came on spot and declared that they will take revenge of Zakir by killing 20 people before he is buried. On 3/4th August 1998 intervening night when he went out from his house for easing he heard sound of people walking with torch lights. There was a search light from nearby camp. He thought after the army searches he will go to his house as his identity card was inside. In the torch light he saw from his family, maternal uncle Lassa Sheikh, his son Muhammad Iqbal Sheikh, his daughter and 6 persons of his family, his father Ahmad Din, his mother Sara Begum, his married sister Zarina Begum, younger to him Yasmeena Akhtar, third sister Javeda Akhtar, Shugufta Akhtar were told to go to the house of Hassan Muhammad for brief talk. He heard firing cries but kept himself concealed outside. Then on the morning saw all were killed and their limbs were amputated. So could guess only army whom he cannot identify. He saw army personnel with torches in hand who went down on the main road in the torch light where from he heard sound of vehicles moving. Then on 5th of August 1998, the postmortem of dead bodies was conducted. He alone survived from his family and all the family members of Hassam Muhammad killed. He had danger to his life due to deposition. He be given protection. In fact army had come to catch Imtiyaz and killed his home people. The innocents were killed who had no connection.

Muhammad Rafiq Sheikh Deposes that on 3rd August 1998, militants killed Zakir SPO when he was going from Surankot to Bafalyaz. The army declared that they will kill 20 persons in exchange of killing Zakir. Zakir SPO was searching Imtiyaz son of Lassa Sheikh. The militants do not kill normally civilians unless there guilt is proved. The locals’ militants have not enmity with Lassa Sheikh, deceased and with the family of Hassan Muhammad, deceased nor the militants could do so.

Muhammad Afzal Deposes he had gone to his sisters house when on the intervening night of 3/4th August 1998 he heard firing intermittently he saw 10-15 persons in army uniform holding torches who were talking that they were taking revenge of Zakir he camouflaged himself in the maize crop. The uniformed men went down to the main road when he reached the house of uncle where the occurrence had taken place he saw heaps of dead bodies. From his family, his father, his brother wife and four minor children got killed. He his of the firm conviction that the killing is not by the militants nor they could do so.

Abdul Karim Sheikh, aged 65 years On the intervening night of 3/4th August 1998, when the killing of 19 persons took place he was out of station at Jammu. On 4th August 1998, when he reached from Jammu to Bafalyaz, the dead bodies were lying in the house he got unconscious. The unit to which Zakir SPO was attached had declared that they will take revenge by killing 20 persons.  If three SPOs of Zakir’s group and personnel of 9 para are arrested, that is the solution. He is of the firm view that 9 paras are involved in killing of 19 persons along with three SPOs. In the house where the occurrence took place, it was written on the wall that 5 per cent work has been done leaving 95 per cent to be done. About 900 persons, men, women have ran from Sailin village to whom government have not given any aid. 25 persons are lodged in one room. The army and civil persons cannot live together as the civilians are afraid of army and have danger from them.

A case regarding the occurrence in question stands registered under section 302-120b-121-122-449 RPC 3EAO7-25-26-27IAA in the police station, Surankot, the blame is against the militants by the police, which the local public have refuted. The two written complaints on behalf of Sailin villagers by Aftab Azad and Taj Hussain, advocate straightway point the army involved in the massacre so also one witnesses recorded. The xxxx affair is that the team of three doctors have conducted the post mortem of dead bodies. One of them named Dr Mumtaz Hussain examined, confirms the rape committed on the female victims but it has not been recorded in the report. Rather the report of rape deliberately or otherwise ignored.

Keeping in view all the circumstances and considering the material in the shape of written complaints by Aftab Azad and Syed Taj Hussain, advocate, Bar Association, Poonch and oral statements, it is not difficult  but easy to draw conclusion how the occurrence of killing took place and who is responsible for the same.

As has been discussed that Zakir Hussain, slain SPO who was basically a militant three four years back surrendered before the army, got himself recruited as SPO and worked as informer to the local army, he got recruited three more persons from his Gujjar community as SPOs remaining attached to the local army. On the other hand there is one more underground militant namely  Imtiyaz Sheikh who was earlier arrested by security forces, having escape was heading a group of local militants may be in line with foreign militants who are hiding in that area.

Zakir Hussain slain SPO along with his group in association with the army were attempting to nab Imtiyaz so his father Lassa Sheikh’s house was being searched frequently. A rumor had spread that five six days prior to occurrence that Imtiyaz has come to home village Sailin so Zakir Hussain SPO with his associates might have been alert to catch Imtiyaz, so Imtiyaz militant party were not only conscious being wanted but they also might have been chasing the Zakir Hussain, who fell to the bullets of some unidentified gunmen on main road at Sailin village. The group of slain Zakir SPO lost their leader, army lost trusted informer and father lost his son. While lifting dead body of Zakir SPO army had vowed to wipe twenty persons even before his burial. As a natural consequence also the killing of Zakir SPO could not be ignored. Moreover, the involvement of Imtiyaz militant and his ground in the killing cannot be ruled out. The fact  get support from near circumstances the whole family of Imtiyaz militant including his father Lassa Sheikh together with family of Ahmad Din got brutally killed the same night that is ? August when Zakir SPO was killed day time.

One glaring fact noted when bloodbath of 19 persons taking place in the house of Ahmad Din, the army picket being only 200 mtrs away, the army supposed to be vigilant around the clock did not come on spot to intervene when civilians had been ordered not to move after 6:30pm. The silence of army by that time of occurrence is not meaningless, uniformed personnel seen moving with torch light  around the scene of occurrence then moving down to board the vehicles or on the main road, leave none in doubt  except bias mind.

Thus to sum up, the occurrence of killing in question, does not travel beyond the belief that, three unnamed associate SPO of Zakir slain SPO, his relations joined by security forces of the area, who could not be identified have to shoulder the allegation for the massacre of innocent souls, because the statements of local people recorded and expressions gathered in only pin only the elements indicated including even faint involvement of anybody else. It is observed that no direct evidence was available nor particular person has been named or identified to give definite clue of the heinous crime which left 19 persons killed.

The home department will issue directions to SP Poonch to identify three SPO associates of Zakir slain SPO attached with 9 para at Bafalyaz army camp and bring them in the net if investigation of the case registered regarding the occurrence together with father of Zakir, deceased who happened grieved, seen weeping before  army. As regards the alleged allegation against the security forces without identifying any particular force, the unified command is under obligation to take stock of the reoccurrence by the army personnel at Sailan picket did not react, when the occurrence took place at a distance of barely 200 Mtrs from their picket that too around midnight, uniformed persons seen moving with torch lights, then no civilian could movement at that time. The unified command by seeking verification will restore the confidence at army in local people, which is assessed xxxx the Sailan people look army with hostile eyes, having lost confidence in them because of suspected hand in the killing. The para army in command is expected to give feeling to the people xxxx their saviors and shun hostile attitude, which will make their job an easy affair while seeking cooperation to discharge their professional duties. Army command will take the   event as serious one, having attracted criticism locally. As per sings gathered the army has to achieve the aim assigned rather to reach the goal, for which local cooperation is felt essential.

Those who suffered  because of killing xxxx surveyed by the district administration, Poonch, have to be awarded cash compensation by the government on the similar lines as may have been paid to survivors of killings at Handwara, Ganderbal, in identical massacre. In addition one Shabir Ahmad Sheikh son of Ahmad Din who survived the attack in which his whole family got wiped is a student of 12th class, is recommended to be admitted in boarding house in Poonch college immediately, with boarding, lodging, and education at the expense of government till he passes his graduation. The arrangement will ensure his security aspect also, which is needed most for him, because of compensation to be awarded and other circumstances of post occurrence.

The district administration will consider seriously the security risk of the witnesses, who deposed before the commission and filed written complaints before the commission named in this report.

Interim report dated 14-09-1998 for relief to the migrants of Sailan most have find favour with the Jammu and Kashmir government need to be reassured.

It is the home department J&K government responsible to look into all aspects of the event in question in the light of this report. Keep an eye on the post happenings of the killings, to find means and methods for avoiding any such future occurrence in the area, which is remote from the xxxxx of the government otherwise a border district (Poonch) where every caution has to be taken by the forces in the control.

The Jammu and Kashmir government will take action on the report within thirty (30) days from its receipt with intimation to this commission. The report be placed before the honorable chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir state forthwith for kind perusal.

(Justice G. A. Kuchhai)
J&K State Human Rights Commission

Dr. Farooq Abdullah,
Hon’ble chief minister,
Jammu and Kashmir State,

No: SHRC/98/PS/1127
Dt: 21-10-1998

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  1. Pingback: Kashmir Life » Lest We Forget

  2. commendable Saima for your effort…the report made me to feel how tragic is our plight…May Almighty come to our rescue…the documents you upload is new and interesting step…

  3. this is the greatness of draconian law AFSPA, army after killing poor innocent people of kashmir are no where accountable , what a democratic country India is ? have you seen such a terrorist army in world ?

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