By Hari Kumar
New Delhi, Jun 5 : At least 20 Indian soldiers were killed during an ambush Thursday by militants in the remote northeast of the country, in one of the deadliest confrontations in recent years.
The attack, in the Chandel district of Manipur State close to the border with Myanmar, was carried out against a small convoy of army vehicles traveling from one army camp to another in the hilly and forested area about 60 miles south of the state capital, Imphal.
“At least 20 soldiers were killed and 11 are injured,” said Col. Rohan Anand, an army spokesman in New Delhi. “The army convoy was first blasted using improvised explosive devices followed by rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire.”
Several similar attacks have been reported in recent months in the states of Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland.
As Thursday’s ambush occurred in an area without phone communication, details were slow to emerge. “We are still waiting for the police party to come back,” said P. K. Tutusana, the spokeswoman for the Manipur police.
India’s defense minister, Manohar Parrikar, condemned the assault and vowed in a statement that “those who have committed this cowardly act will be brought to book.”
Manipur has 41 militant groups, though the government is currently in peace negotiations with 36 of them. However, the remaining five “are the most important ones,” said J. Suresh Babu the home secretary of Manipur. “This is a desperate attempt by militants to make their presence felt, and to try to make sure that people should not forget them.”