Northeastern India: 18 Soldiers Die in Manipur Ambush

By Altaf Ahmad

2015-06-04
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150604-IN-manipur-620 Indian security personnel inspect the site of a marketplace bombing that killed two people in Imphal, Manipur, May 29, 2014.
AFP

Story updated at 3:47 p.m. ET on 2015-08-03

In one of the deadliest attacks on the Indian army in years, insurgents in the northeastern state of Manipur killed at least 18 soldiers and injured 11 others in an ambush on a military convoy Thursday.

Insurgents armed with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons attacked four army vehicles after setting off bombs along the Tengnoupal-New Samtal road near Charong village, some 80 kms (50 miles) from Imphal, the state capital, according to news reports.

Reinforcements were rushed to the scene and an operation was under way to track down those responsible for the attack, reports said.

“Today’s mindless attack in Manipur is very distressing. I bow to each and every soldier who has sacrificed his life for the nation,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said via Twitter.

Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar condemned the attack as a "cowardly act."

According to a former Indian Police official from the region, Thursday’s attack resulted from a lack of coordination among security agencies and a failure in intelligence.

“There is a need to strengthen coordination between different security agencies, including the army, to deal with the insurgents,” Uday Sahay told BenarNews.

“Today’s attack is the result of an intelligence failure. Unlike police, the army stays in cantonments and places isolated from towns, and it is not well acquainted with the geography of the region. This makes the army vulnerable to attacks.”

Manipur is a mountainous state that lies east of Bangladesh and on the border with Myanmar.

Suspicion falls on PLA

Manipur Home Secretary J. Suresh Babu said Thursday’s attack likely was carried out by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), one of at least 22 militant outfits operating in the region.

“We are waiting for more inputs about the attack. This seems to be the handiwork of the PLA, with suspected support from Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (KYKL),” Firstpost quoted Babul as saying.

Since 1978, the PLA has been fighting for independence from India and to establish a socialist state in Manipur. The KYKL is among other rebel groups that operate in Manipur. It is surrounded by other insurgency-hit states, including Nagaland to the north and Mizoram to the south.

Insurgents are especially active in Manipur, a deeply impoverished state.

“Unemployment is high in Manipur as compared to other northeast states. The government should engage more youth in armed forces like the state police to lure them away from joining the militant ranks,” Kalyan Barwa, bureau chief in the northeast for The Tribune newspaper, told BenarNews.

“Besides, the administration should focus on development and build a conducive atmosphere to hold a meaningful dialogue with the insurgent group to end the decades-old conflict,” he added.

“Unless militancy is curbed, no investor will invest in the conflict-ridden state.”

An earlier version incorrectly reported that 20 Indian soldiers were killed in the Manipur attack.

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