13 killed in Nagaland during 'counter insurgency ops'

13 killed in Nagaland during 'counter insurgency operation'; CM, Amit Shah condemn 'unfortunate incident'

One army personnel was also reportedly killed in the attack by angry locals

Representative Image. Credit: AFP File Photo

At least 13 villagers returning from their work in a coal mine in Nagalan's Mon disttict were gunned down by security forces on Saturday evening during a "counter-insurgency operation" that apparently went awry.

An armyman was also killed in an attack by angry villagers who got angry over the firing on the "innocent villagers."

The killings triggered outrage across Nagaland on Sunday with angry locals setting fire in a camp of Assam Rifles in the afternoon. Assam Rifles personnel fired in the air to disperse the protesters.

The Saturday evening incident took place in Oting and Tiru village in Mon district that shares border with Myanmar and is considered a transit route for Aung Yang faction of NSCN (Khaplang), a militant group having camps in the neighbouring country.

Security forces opened fire targeting a vehicle in which villagers were returning from their work in a coal mine after it allegedly did not stop. Six villagers died on the spot. According to tribal leaders, villagers rushed to the spot hearing gun shots and were shocked to see the bullet-hit bodies. They pelted stones and attacked the army team in anger and set their vehicles on fire. One armyman died and a few more got injured in the attack. Armymen again opened fire killing seven more villagers.

The workers normally come back to their home on every Saturday to spend the Sunday with their families, locals said.

In a statement, headquarters of army's 3 corps situated near Dimapur in Nagaland said a "specific operation" was launched in Tiru area based on "credible" intelligence about likely movement of insurgents.

"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," said the statement. "The security forces have suffered severe injuries in the incident including one soldier who succumbed to the injuries."

Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio and Home Minister Amit Shah condemned the attack and called it "unfortunate incident." Shah said a high level Special Investigation Team (SIT) would be set up by Nagaland government for justice to the families of the victims.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted, "This is heart wrenching. GOI must give a real reply. What exactly is the home ministry doing when neither civilians nor security personnel are safe in our own land?"

Several organisations representing Naga tribes raised black flags as a mark of protest amid tension that gripped the state. They also boycotted the annual Hornbill Festival, which is underway at Kisama heritage village, about 12km from state capital Kohima. NSCN-IM, the insurgent group in ceasefire since 1997 said killing of the civilians was unacceptable amid efforts to find a permanent solution to the decades-long insurgency in Nagaland. It said security force had in the past similarly killed civilians in Nagaland using the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958.

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