At least five Indian soldiers and two civilians have been killed in an attack carried out by an armed group in India’s northeastern state of Manipur, officials said.
The suspected rebels ambushed a convoy of India’s paramilitary soldiers on Saturday who were on their way to inspect a remote village in Churachandpur district, a police officer in the state capital, Imphal, said.
The dead include a colonel of the Assam Rifles, a paramilitary force of the Indian army, his wife and his son. Four more soldiers were killed in the attack.
Police said the rebels opened fire with automatic weapons.
Security reinforcements have been rushed to the area and launched a search for the attackers.
Police said it was likely the ambush was carried out by the People’s Liberation Army, a Manipur-based rebel group that has been fighting against Indian rule in the state. So far no rebel group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
“The cowardly attack on an Assam Rifles convoy is extremely painful and condemnable. The nation has lost five brave soldiers, including Commanding Officer 46, Assam Rifles, and two family members. My condolences to the bereaved families. The perpetrators will be brought to justice soon,” Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said on Twitter.
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.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) November 13, 2021
For his part, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the “sacrifice” of those killed “will never be forgotten”.
“My thoughts are with the bereaved families in this hour of sadness,” he wrote on Twitter.
India’s northeast, which shares borders with China, Myanmar and Bangladesh, is a volatile region where several separatist, tribal or leftist armed groups are active, with demands ranging from autonomy to independence.
Nearly 20 rebel groups are active in Manipur, which is expected to go to the polls early next year.
According to data on the South Asia Terrorism Portal, more than 6,370 people have been killed in militancy-related incidents in Manipur since 1992. In 2015, at least 20 soldiers were killed in an attack by armed individuals in the state.