New Delhi: The Army and the Assam Rifles Sunday put their units in Nagaland on alert to counter any retaliatory violence against their camps following Saturday’s “botched” ambush by a Para Special Forces unit in Mon district, ThePrint has learnt.
An ambush was set up in Mon Saturday based on inputs suggesting that a group of NSCN (K) cadres were scheduled to travel on a pick-up truck through a certain stretch, sources in the security and defence establishment said. However, a vehicle believed to be carrying miners was fired upon instead.
The ambush, which led to the killings of 6 civilians, took place around 4.30 pm Saturday. This was followed by a mob attack on security forces later at night, which resulted in the killing of one soldier and seven other civilians in “counter fire” by security personnel.
On Sunday, an Assam Rifles camp in Mon — a stronghold of the Naga militant group NSCN (K) and Assam’s ULFA (United Liberation Front of Asom) — was also attacked by local residents who burnt down parts of it. One civilian was killed when security personnel “opened fire in self-defence”.
The district, which borders Assam and also shares an international border with Myanmar, remains tense.
Various Naga groups have called for a bandh Monday in view of the killings, sources in the defence and security establishment said. Amid these tensions, they added, a directive has been issued asking all Army and Assam Rifles units to remain alert.
The Army has constituted a Court of Inquiry (CoI) into the whole incident.
In a statement, the Army said “based on credible intelligence of likely movement of insurgents, a specific operation was planned to be conducted in the area of Tiru, Mon District, Nagaland”.
“The incident and its aftermath is deeply regretted. The cause of the unfortunate loss of lives is being investigated at the highest level and appropriate action will be taken as per the course of law,” it added.
“The security forces have suffered severe injuries in the incident including one soldier who succumbed to the injuries,” it said.
The ‘botched ambush’
According to the sources, the ambush was set up Saturday evening by a team led by a Major.
The exact sequence of events is not yet clear but the security forces, it is learnt, opened fire on a pick-up truck that came with 8 people on board.
Six people died on the spot while two others were severely injured.
A closer inspection revealed that there were no weapons on board, the sources said. Multiple media reports from the ground have said the people killed were miners returning home from work.
Sources admitted that this was a “botched ambush” and the CoI will look into all aspects, including the intelligence generated and violation of standard operating procedures.
As the news of the ambush spread, hundreds of villagers armed with machetes, stones and other crude weapons attacked the security forces at night and burnt down vehicles.
One soldier of the elite unit was killed while at least four others were injured, sources said.
The soldiers opened fire in self-defence, which led to the killing of seven more civilians, the sources said.
Army sources said the soldiers showed extreme restraint while dealing with the mob, and opened defensive fire only when their fellow troops were attacked.
This report has been updated to reflect emerging details from the incident. An earlier version of the report said eight people had died in the ambush, but that toll has been revised to six in light of new information.
(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)