A colonel of Assam Rifles, his wife, eight-year-old son and four jawans were killed in an ambush by insurgents on Saturday morning in Manipur's Churachandpur district, situated close to the border with Myanmar.
Four other jawans were also injured in the attack at around 11 am at Thinghat, about 50 kilometres from the district headquarters (Churachandpur), police in Manipur said.
The convoy of Colonel Viplav Tripathi, the commanding officer of 46 Assam Rifles was attacked with an IED and then fired at indiscriminately, killing seven on the spot. The colonel was returning from a forward camp with his wife Anuja and son Abir, official sources said. Abir was a class 1 student.
Col. Tripathi, hailing from Raigarh in Chattisgarh, had served in Mizoram before his posting in Churachandpur. He had led Assam Rifles teams that conducted successful operations against drug smugglers in Mizoram.
Four jawans who died in the attack have been identified as Suman Swargiary, Khatnei Konyak, R.P Meena and Shyamlal Das.
Security officials suspected the involvement of People's Liberation Army (PLA), a banned insurgent group in Manipur. However, PLA and Manipur Naga People’s Front, another rebel group issued a joint statement in the evening claiming responsibility for the attack. The statement said they were not aware that the Colonel’s family was travelling with him.
Formed in 1978, PLA has been carrying out violence in support of its demand for "independent" Manipur.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and defence minister Rajnath Singh condemned the attack. "Strongly condemn the attack on the Assam Rifles convoy in Manipur. I pay homage to those soldiers and family members who have been martyred today. Their sacrifice will never be forgotten. My thoughts are with the bereaved families in this hour of sadness," PM Modi tweeted.
Assam Rifles is a paramilitary force but operates under the defence ministry. It is largely used in counter-insurgency operations in the Northeast, including in Manipur, where several militant groups are active.
Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh said state police commando and paramilitary forces were on the job to track down the militants involved in the attack. "The perpetrators will definitely be brought to justice," he told reporters at Shija hospital in state capital Imphal, where the injured jawans were rushed.
Militancy in Manipur
The annual report of the ministry of home affairs said that although overall militancy related incidents came down in the Northeast, the situation in Manipur and Nagaland remained a cause for concern. Militants use the unfenced stretches of the border with Myanmar to flee to their hideouts after carrying out attacks.
In 2015, at least 20 soldiers were killed in ambush by militants in Manipur, following which the Army had conducted operation in their hideouts.
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