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4 Telangana Rape-Murder Accused Shot Dead By Cops, "Tried To Escape"

In a stunning twist to a crime that horrified the nation, all four men accused in the gang-rape and murder of a young veterinarian in Telangana were shot dead in the early hours of Friday by the police, who claim they were trying to escape during investigations at the spot where the woman's body was found.

The four men, Mohammed Arif (26), Jollu Shiva (20), Jollu Naveen (20) and Chintakunta Chennakeshavulu (20), had been taken to the scene of the crime at 3 am for a reconstruction, the police said. They were at the spot near a bridge where the charred body of the woman was found, around 50 km from Hyderabad, when, the police claim, one of the men signalled to the others, possibly to escape.

The police claim they fired in self-defence after two of the men attacked them, snatched their weapons and fired.

"They were killed in crossfire. They tried to snatch weapons from the guards but were shot dead," Prakash Reddy, a deputy commissioner of police in Hyderabad, said, adding that the men died before any medical help could arrive.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has said it will send a team led by a senior police officer to Telangana to investigate the matter. The team will give a report soon, the NHRC said.

A huge crowd gathered on the bridge overlooking the spot and flashed thumbs-up signs at the police; some showered flowers.

The four, arrested a day after the crime, had been in custody of the police since Wednesday.

All the four accused in the Telangana rape and murder have been killed in an encounter

On November 27, the men, all truck-drivers and cleaners, saw the 27-year-old woman park her scooter near a toll-booth on a busy highway. They allegedly deflated her scooter tyre and waited. When she returned from a dermatology appointment, they took her to a truck yard with the promise of fixing her scooter, gang-raped her, strangled her and burnt her body to destroy evidence, according to the police.

Amid spiralling outrage, the Telangana Law Department had approved a fast-track court to try the case.

The woman's father told news agency ANI: "It has been 10 days to the day my daughter died. I express my gratitude towards the police and the government for this. My daughter's soul must be at peace now."

The incident has been passionately debated for days and now the controversial shooting has divided opinion.

Locals showered rose petals on Hyderabad Police personnel.

Several celebrities and even politicians praised the police though there were many voices of caution.

A former police officer suggested public anger had left the police with little choice. "Although it's totally unprofessional, but I think this was what was expected. I knew something like this was going to happen," said Swaranjit Sen, a former Director General of Police, Andhra Pradesh.

Lawyer Vrinda Grover denounced the police shooting and said an FIR must be filed. "This is absolutely unacceptable. We don't want this form of trigger happy justice. There must be an independent judicial enquiry into this 'encounter'. There must be accountability of the police," said Ms Grover.

In parliament, several MPs had called for quick trial and hanging of the accused. In some emotional statements, MPs called for lynching of the men for the horrific crime.

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