Imphal, Sept. 9: The Manipur government’s move to offer an olive branch to sponsors of the indefinite bandh in Naga-inhabited areas by withdrawing additional security forces from Ukhrul town took a hit this morning when suspected NSCN (Isak-Muivah) militants sprung twin ambushes in Ukhrul district, leaving one police commando dead and two injured.
The deceased was identified as Haoreiyo. He succumbed to his injuries on the way to Imphal while the other two personnel, Khumukcham Amuthoi, 33, and Naminthang Namsong, 27, were admitted to the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences here. Amuthoi’s condition is said to be serious. All the three are constables.
The security personnel were returning from Ukhrul town, 65km northeast of Imphal, following orders issued last evening by the state government on the suggestion of Union home minister Rajnath Singh to create a conducive situation that could lead to lifting of the six-day-old bandh called by the United Naga Council (UNC).
Though no militant group has claimed responsibility for the attack, police suspect the hand of the NSCN (I-M) because the sites of the ambushes are stronghold of the group, which is in ceasefire and talks with the government. The truce is not applicable to Manipur, but both the central and state forces avoid action against the outfit in view of the ongoing peace talks between the group and Centre.
Chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh and deputy chief minister Gaikhangam, who is also the home minister, briefed governor V.K. Duggal on the law and order situation in the wake of today’s ambush. Before meeting the governor, Gaikhangam reviewed the situation in Ukhrul with Congress legislators elected from the district.
Police said militants, lying in wait on hilltops ambushed the two convoys almost simultaneously at 9.30am at Mahadeva, 20km from Imphal, and Hundung, 40km from Imhal, on the Imphal-Ukhrul road. The first convoy to come under attack at Mahadeva was a team of police commandos sent from Imphal to Ukhrul as road-opening patrol for the convoy returning from Ukhrul. The commandos returned fire and the exchange lasted for about 10 minutes.
As the exchange of fire was on, another group of militants sprung an ambush on a combined team of police commandos and India Reserve Battalion (IRB) personnel returning from Ukhrul at Hundung, about 20km east of Mahadeva. Haoreiyo was injured in the second ambush.
The combined team of commandos and IRB numbering about 500 was being led by deputy inspector-general (Range-1) Bilchandra Sharma and was on its way to Imphal.
These forces had been deployed after the killing of Ukhrul Autonomous District Council member Ngalangzar Malue, 65, by suspected NSCN (I-M) cadres in Ukhrul on July 12. The UNC, apex body of the Nagas, called an indefinite bandh in the Naga areas from Thursday demanding withdrawal of the state forces and prohibitory orders.
The bandh has affected supplies of essential commodities to Manipur as the two key highways connecting the state to the outside world pass through the Naga-inhabited areas.
Though both security forces and the prohibitory orders were withdrawn, the UNC was yet to take a decision on calling off its bandh.
The government has not decided whether to do a rethink on the pullout after today’s twin ambushes. The chief minister is expected to review the situation with security agencies before taking any decision.
Official sources said the government was prepared to take up the issue of NSCN (I-M)’s activities in Manipur with the Centre for possible flush-out operations.
Intelligence sources said cadres of the outfit were operating in the district in the absence of any ceasefire.
Sources said though the army, Assam Rifles and state forces carried out operations from time to time against other militant groups numbering more than 30, they were avoiding action against the NSCN (I-M) lest the talks are jeopardised.
Manipur govt had pulled out forces after centre’s nudge
April 9, 2014: Suspected NSCN-IM cadres ambush Deputy Speaker M.K. Presho Shimray in Ukhrul on voting day for Outer Manipur parliamentary constituency. Shimray escapes unhurt
July 12, 2014: Suspected NSCN-IM militants ambush Ukhrul Autonomous District Council member Ngalangzar Malue, killing him on the spot
Nov. 13, 2011: Suspected NSCN-IM cadres ambush education minister D.D. Thaisii in Senapati district. He escapes unhurt
April. 15, 2011: Suspected NSCN-IM rebels ambush Independent MLA Wungnaoshang Keishing in Ukhrul. Six Manipur Rifles personnel escorting the MLA and a driver killed on