Col, a relative of the 7 killed in an ambush in Manipur near the Myanmar border; India promises a strong response | Latest news India

Armed militants ambushed a convoy of Assam Rifles near the porous India-Myanmar border in Manipur’s Churachandpur district on Saturday; killing five soldiers, including a colonel, his wife and their eight-year-old son, and wounding six staff members, four of whom are critical and fighting for their lives at a medical facility in the state, said people familiar with the events.

The commander of the 46 Assam rifles, Colonel Viplav Tripathi, and his Rapid Reaction Team (QRT) were returning from the Behiang border post and heading to the battalion headquarters in Khuga when the militants ambushed them in the village of S Sehken under the Singhat subdivision. Around 11 a.m., one of the officials cited above said.

Apart from Tripathi, his wife Anuja and their son Abeer; Riflemen NK Nayak, Suman Swargiary, RP Meena and Shyamal Das were killed in the previously planned attack. Family members of soldiers beaten by insurgents is a rarity and has caused a stir in the military community. In May 2002, terrorists killed 31 people at an army base in the Kaluchak area of ​​Jammu and Kashmir. The casualties were three soldiers, 18 relatives (including a two-month-old girl) and 10 civilians. The 47 wounded were 12 soldiers, 20 family members and 15 civilians.

The attackers first activated an improvised explosive device (IED) on the single-lane road in a heavily forested area and then brought Assam Rifles personnel under heavy automatic fire to inflict maximum casualties, bringing back memories of the Chandel ambush in June 2015 in the state. in which a Dogra battalion of the Indian army lost 18 men, a second officer said.

Five days after the Dogra unit was attacked in broad daylight in the Moltuk Valley, Indian Special Forces responded with a cross-border incursion into Myanmar, where they attacked and destroyed two insurgent camps.

Security forces launched a massive manhunt of the insurgents on Saturday, but they may have slipped across the porous border into Myanmar.

Tripathi’s unit, 46 Assam Rifles, had disrupted several drug trafficking networks in the area and may have been targeted by insurgents due to their successes in curbing illegal money trafficking, HT has learned.

The aftermath of the coup was felt in New Delhi and the government promised strong and swift action against the insurgents.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned the attack and paid tribute to the soldiers and family members who lost their lives in the ambush. His sacrifice will never be forgotten. My thoughts are with the grieving families in this hour of sadness, ”the prime minister wrote on Twitter.

Defense Minister Rajnath Singh said the perpetrators of the attack would be brought to justice quickly. “The cowardly attack on a convoy of Assam Rifles is extremely painful and reprehensible. The nation has lost five brave soldiers, including the CO 46 AR and two family members. My condolences to the bereaved families, ”said Singh.

The state’s chief minister, N Biren Singh, said that the security forces had launched a search for the militants and that they would be brought to justice.

So far no insurgent groups have claimed responsibility for the attack, but the Manipur People’s Liberation Army and the Kangleipak ​​People’s Revolutionary Party (PREPAK) are among the groups suspected of being involved, a fourth official said.

At least half a dozen major insurgent groups are active in the state, including the PLA, PREPAK, Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup, the Kangleipak ​​Communist Party, the Kuki National Army, and the Kuki National Front.

“The insurgents may have carried out the attack to impose caution on the Assam Rifles, as this unit (46 Assam Rifles) was highly successful in ending drug trafficking networks in the area. These insurgent groups are involved in the illegal drug trade, ”said Lt. Gen. Shokin Chauhan (retd), who led the Assam Rifles in 2017-18.

The road where the ambush took place is one of the alternative routes from Myanmar to Imphal and is used for drug trafficking.

Chauhan does not rule out a Chinese angle in the attack.

“The Manipur People’s Liberation Army is known to be in sync with China. It is within the purview of possibility that the attack was ordered to force India to deploy more forces in the area at a time when there is tension along the Royal Line of Control (LAC) with China, ”he said. .

Chauhan, a counterinsurgency expert who understands Northeast India’s security dynamics, retired last year as chairman of the Ceasefire Monitoring Group responsible for implementing the basic rules of the ceasefire between the Center and Naga insurgent groups. .

He added that the attackers would have known that the civilians were part of the Assam Rifles convoy, but they still carried out the attack.

According to figures obtained by HT in 2018, the average annual operations launched by the army and Assam Rifles in Manipur involve the establishment of 52,000 checkpoints, 42,000 patrols, more than 10,000 ambushes and 550 special operations.

Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) are one of the biggest challenges facing soldiers deployed in Manipur, hit by the insurgency, and mitigating that threat is one of the security forces’ top priorities. Improvised explosive devices, the predominant weapon of insurgent groups, have killed, maimed or wounded hundreds of soldiers in northeast India, including Manipur, over the past three decades.

The vast area in which security forces operate, the state’s topography and a 398-kilometer porous border with Myanmar are among the challenges facing soldiers operating from 180 bases scattered across Manipur, authorities said.

Improvised explosive devices rose to prominence in the northeast, including Manipur, in 1990, when insurgents began to emulate the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

The latest ambush comes at a time when the security situation in the Northeast has improved significantly in the army’s assessment, and a planned and gradual reduction of soldiers is taking place.

In February 2021, Army Chief Gen. Manoj Mukund Naravane said that two army divisions had been withdrawn from counterinsurgency and internal security tasks in the Northeast, focusing solely on their operational role throughout the the border with China.

Several parliamentary panels have made recommendations in their reports to reduce the army’s exposure to counterinsurgency and counterterrorism duties because this reduces the force’s focus on its main task: defending the country from external aggression.

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