BHIMBER (AJK) - Eight people, including father and his three sons, were killed over old enmity in a remote village of Garhoon in the Samani valley of Bhimbher district Wednesday morning, said police.

The deceased were identified as father Raja Mumtaz, sons Raja Goher, Raja Ejaz and Raja Shehzad as well as Raja Bilal, Raja Shamrais, Raja Amjad and Raja Nomi.  “They were ambushed by their armed rivals on way to the district courts,” a police officer told the media. The assailants slipped into a forest near the crime site, said the officer.

The shootout took place at 7:30am. The families of the victims rushed to the scene and staged a protest by placing the bodies on Samani-Bhimbher Road. They blocked the road and vowed to continue their protest till the arrest of culprits.

Later, the protesters moved the bodies to their houses after the assurance by Deputy Commissioner Khawaja Naeem to arrest the accused in next 24 hours.

Senior officials of Bhimber district administration including DC Khawaja Naeem Bismil, SP Muhammad Kamran and SSP Ch Munir Hussain rushed to the scene. The police have cordoned off the area and a hunt for the runaway culprits was on.

For the last 18 years, two arch rival groups - Raja Mushtaq and Raja Sarwar – have been battling over the murder of three people of Sarwar group in Garhoon village of Samani valley. The triple-murder case was tried in the court of law and concluded with rapprochement. But at the same time, the enmity between both the groups resurface after Raja Mushtaq was allegedly gunned down by the rival Sardar men. Police had booked 12 accused belonging to Sarwar group in the murder case of Raja Mushtaq. Of the 12 arrested accused, six had been found innocent and released in the preliminary investigations. The case was under trial.

It was the alleged stance of the Sarwar group that rest of the six accused were innocent and challaned illegally.

The Sarwar group was allegedly striving hard for the justice to the nabbed accused by using all possible means to impress upon the police by proving their innocence.