A counter-insurgency operation being conducted by an elite unit of the Indian Army’s Para Special Forces in Nagaland went horribly wrong on Saturday, leading to the deaths of 13 innocent villagers, who were wrongly believed to be militants. An Army jawan also lost his life when the situation quickly deteriorated out of control.
Sources said the classified operation was being conducted without the knowledge of the police or Assam Rifles, the para-military force which has a key role in handling insurgency in this area.
The Mon area is the bastion of Naga group NSCN(K) and Assam’s ULFA (United Liberation Front of Asom) and the district which shares an international border with Myanmar as well as the state border with Assam. The area is known to be sensitive and volatile.
Around 4 pm on Saturday, the army team, led by a Major, identified a pick-up truck on the Tiru-Oting road as target, and opened fire, sources said.
The truck had eight people on board — six of them were killed on the spot, Two others died on the way to hospital. It is believed that all those on the truck were local coal miners.
Sources said no arms or ammunition were recovered from truck.
Soon after, hundreds of villagers — armed with stones and machetes — attacked the army team, sources said. The army team opened fire in self-defence, in which at least five 5 villagers were killed and several others were injured, sources said.
A commando was killed and seven jawans were injured in the brickbatting by the locals.
Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, who was in Delhi, returned to the state and is likely to hold a cabinet meeting, government sources said.
Top military, police and home ministry officials are meeting in Nagaland capital Kohima tomorrow.
Mobile internet and SMS services have been blocked in the Mon district to stop the circulation of rumours.
But this evening, the situation turned tense in Mon town as angry protesters surrounded the Assam rifles camp. Police sources said they broke into the camp tried to set fire to a portion of it.
Chief Minister Rio tweeted this morning to say a special investigation team will probe the matter and justice will be delivered as per the law of the land. Mr Rio will visit the spot tomorrow and meet the locals.
Union home minister Amit Shah tweeted: “Anguished over an unfortunate incident in Nagaland’s Oting, Mon. I express my deepest condolences to the families of those who have lost their lives. A high-level SIT constituted by the State govt will thoroughly probe this incident to ensure justice to the bereaved families.”