Are Myanmar militants behind attack on police commandos in Manipur?

Are Myanmar militants behind attack on police commandos in Manipur?

Are Myanmar militants behind attack on police commandos in Manipur?

The tensions in Manipur refuse to die down. Ethnic violence erupted in May last year and nine months on, the northeast state continues to be on the edge. At the centre of the latest flare-up is the Moreh, a small but important trading down on the border with Myanmar.

On Wednesday, there was an attack on police personnel, where two were killed. Now Manipur security advisor Kuldiep Singh has hinted at the role of insurgents including those from neighbouring Myanmar.

What do we know about the attack on police in Moreh?

On Wednesday morning, Manipur police commandos were attacked by armed assailants. The attackers used rocket-propelled grenades (RPGS).

Two personnel died amid the renewed violence in Moreh were 32-year-old Wangkhem Somorjit Meetei, an Indian Reserve Battalion (IRB) jawan attached to Manipur police commandos deployed in the town, and Takhellambam Saileshwore, a havildar. Two other commandos were critically injured and airlifted to Imphal for treatment.

The policemen were deployed at an IRB post when assailants attacked using grenades and continued to fire.

This is the second incident of the killing of police personnel in Moreh in two and a half months.

The town was tense after two people were arrested on Monday for the killing of another police officer Anand Kumar last October. While Moreh has a mixed population, a majority of the people belong to the Kuki-Zomi community. Kumar was from the Meitei community.

Two were killed in the attack on police personnel in Moreh town on Wednesday. Representational picture/PTI

According to the police, on Monday evening security personnel on patrol saw two people open fire on security vehicles and run into a cluster of homes. The officials fired in retaliation and cordoned off the houses, reports The Indian Express.

“During the operation, the two suspicious individuals were chased and overpowered using minimal force and were detained for verification,” police said in a statement. A pistol with two live rounds, a hand grenade, 10 live rounds of AK ammunition and 10 detonators were recovered from them, police said.

After the arrest, a crowd gathered around the Moreh police station demanding their arrest. It was later dispersed.

The renewed tension forced the Tengnoupal district administration to impose a curfew in the district.

PTI graphics

Who is behind the attacks?

Manipur security adviser Kuldiep Singh has alleged that some militants from neighbouring Myanmar may have been involved in the recent attack on police commandos.

Singh said that before Wednesday’s attack in Moreh, an intelligence report suggested that insurgents, including “reinforcement from Burma” could attack security forces. But he clarified that there was no evidence still of the involvement of foreign parties in the incident.

According to him, a large number of Kuki militants started firing at police commandos in three locations in Moreh since Wednesday morning. “There was an intelligence report from before that the PDF insurgents operating at Moreh, and maybe some reinforcements from the Burma side also may attack state forces,” Singh told the media, referring to Myanmar’s insurgent group People’s Defence Force (PDF) that is fighting the junta. “The state forces are prepared. Attacks have been happening for many days, but the gunfire had been coming from far areas, not nearby areas.”

“There is a possibility they (Myanmar insurgents) may have come, but there’s no evidence. There is intelligence that PDF may join, may attack the state forces at Moreh,” he said in response to a question from a reporter at the press conference.

Security personnel fire tear gas shells at protesters in Imphal. Manipur has remained tense since enthic violence erupted last May. File photo/PTI

Singh also said that the commandos were at a lower elevation and the militants were attacking from higher locations. “They (commandos) are sitting ducks. We have decided that the commandos should be located at a higher location,” he said, admitting to a shift in tactics.

Talking to the media, he said that intelligence was gathered after threats by Kuki groups that Manipur police commandos stationed in Moreh would be targeted.

Singh said that there was intelligence for a few days because Kuki Inpi, a traditional administration authority made up of clan and village chiefs, and civil society organisations (CSOs) were coming to security locations in Moreh and saying that the commandos (CDOs) should be removed from there. “If CDOs are not moved, the CDOs would be targeted, (the groups warned),” he said.

The Kuki tribes have been accusing the Manipur government of using force against “volunteers”.

How tense is the situation in Manipur now?

Tension continues to grip the state. Five people belonging to the Meitei community were killed in two separate incidents on Thursday. The firing took place in different areas at the border of Meitei-dominated and Kuki-dominated districts.

Police personnel fire tear gas towards women who came to meet Manipur chief minister N Biren Singh, in Imphal, on 18 Janaury. PTI

The body of a person “suspected to be killed in an exchange of fire between armed miscreants” late Wednesday night was recovered in Kangchup, at the border of Imphal West and Kangpokpi district, according to the police. Four people were killed in a separate incident of firing in Bishnupur district.

Three Border Security Force personnel were injured in the Thoubal district on Wednesday night when attempts were made to loot weapons from police establishments. The mobs targeted the 3rd Indian Reserve Battalion in Thoubal’s Khangabok and Thoubal Police Headquarters and on both the occasions the security forces pushed them back.

With inputs from agencies