Categories: India
| On 3 weeks ago

Manipur terrorist attack: Colonel, his family among 7 people died in the ambush

By Aswin Kumar

Armed militants ambushed an Assam Rifles convoy 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 injuring six others, four of whom are critically injured and fighting for their lives at a medical facility in the state, according to sources familiar with the situation.

Colonel Viplav Tripathi, the commanding officer of the 46 Assam Rifles, and his quick reaction team (QRT) were returning from the Behiang border post and heading to the battalion headquarters in Khuga when militants ambushed them at S Sehken village in the Singhat sub-division at around 11 a.m., according to one of the officials cited above.

In addition to Tripathi, his wife Anuja, and son Abeer, the premeditated attack murdered Riflemen NK Nayak, Suman Swargiary, RP Meena, and Shyamal Das. Family members of soldiers killed by militants are a rare occurrence that has shocked the military community.

Terrorists killed 31 persons, including three troops and 18 family members, at an army base in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kaluchak district in May 2002. (the youngest is a two-month-old baby girl).

According to a second official, the attackers detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) on the single-lane road in a densely forested area, then opened fire on the Assam Rifles personnel, bringing back memories of the June 2015 Chandel ambush in the state, in which a Dogra battalion of the Indian Army lost 18 men. India’s Special Forces replied with a cross-border mission into Myanmar five days after the Dogra unit was ambushed in broad daylight in the Moltuk Valley. They targeted and destroyed two rebel camps.

PLA Manipur’s parent organization, the Revolutionary People’s Front (RPF), claimed responsibility for the ambush on Saturday night but stated it was unaware of the presence of family members in the convoy. Family members should not be moving about in a disturbed area, according to the RPF statement.

“Normally, these insurgent groups do not attack women and children… The current strike is an attempt by rebels to reaffirm their importance at a time when violent incidents in Manipur have decreased dramatically. “A nudge from China cannot be ruled out,” said Lieutenant General Konsam Himalay Singh, the first army officer from the Northeast to achieve the three-star rank, who retired in 2017. General Singh interpreted the RPF statement, which was written in Manipuri.

Security forces started a huge manhunt for the terrorists on Saturday, but police believe they may have crossed the porous border into Myanmar.

Tripathi’s unit, the 46 Assam Rifles, had busted many narcotics trafficking organizations in the area and may have been targeted by the militants as a result of its success in stopping illegal money laundering.

New Delhi felt the repercussions of the attack, with the government vowing to take strong and speedy action against the militants.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned the attack and paid tribute to those who died in the ambush, including soldiers and family members. “Their sacrifice will be remembered forever.” In this hour of tragedy, my thoughts are with the grieving families,” the Prime Minister posted on Twitter.

According to Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, the culprits of the attack will be brought to justice as soon as possible. “The heinous attack on an Assam Rifles convoy is excruciatingly unpleasant and repulsive. Five heroic troops, including CO 46 AR and two family members, have died in the service of their country. “My condolences to the deceased families,” Singh expressed his sorrow.

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N Biren Singh, the state chief minister, said security forces had initiated a search for the militants, who would be brought to justice.

The incident had been suspected by the security establishment to have been carried out by the People’s Liberation Army of Manipur.

Insurgent groups such as the People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK), Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup, Kangleipak Communist Party, Kuki National Army, and Kuki National Front are active in the state.

“Insurgents may have carried out the attack to put the Assam Rifles on notice because this unit (46 Assam Rifles) has been quite effective in cracking drug-trafficking networks in the area.” “These militant organizations are involved in the illegal narcotics trade,” claimed Lieutenant General Shokin Chauhan (retd), the Assam Rifles’ commander from 2017 to 2018.

The road where the ambush occurred is used for drug trafficking and is one of the alternate routes from Myanmar to Imphal.

Chauhan, like General Singh, did not rule out a Chinese connection to the attack.

“Manipur’s People’s Liberation Army is known to be in lockstep with China. It’s possible that the strike was ordered to force India to deploy more forces in the area at a time when tensions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China are high,” he said.

Last year, Chauhan, a counter-insurgency expert who is familiar with the security dynamics in India’s Northeast, stepped down as chairman of the Ceasefire Monitoring Group, which was in charge of enforcing ceasefire ground rules between the Centre and Naga insurgent groups.

The assailants would have known that people were in the Assam Rifles convoy, but they nonetheless carried out the daytime attack, according to him. 

According to numbers obtained in 2018, the army and Assam Rifles in Manipur put up 52,000 checkpoints, 42,000 patrols, more than 10,000 ambushes, and 550 special operations on an annual basis.

IEDs are one of the most serious threats facing soldiers in insurgency-wracked Manipur, and security officials are working hard to mitigate the threat. Over the last three decades, IEDs, the most common weapon of rebel groups, have killed, maimed, or injured hundreds of soldiers in India’s northeast, including Manipur.

Officials say soldiers operating from 180 sites spread across Manipur confront problems such as the huge area they operate in, the state’s geography, and a 398-kilometer porous border with Myanmar.

Insurgents began imitating the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in the Northeast, especially Manipur, in 1990, and IEDs became popular.

The new ambush occurs at a time when the army’s assessment of the security situation in the North-east has improved dramatically, and a planned and gradual pullback of troops is underway.

General Manoj Mukund Naravane, the army chief, announced in February 2021 that two army divisions had been removed from counter-insurgency and internal security tasks in the Northeast and were entirely focused on their operational mission along the China border.

Several legislative bodies have recommended in their reports that the army’s exposure to counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism missions be reduced since it dilutes the force’s concentration on its primary mission of defending the country from external attack.

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Aswin Kumar

A creative science nerd! Buy me a coffee: buymeacoffee.com/aswinkumar

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