Protesters have burned army vehicles after more than a dozen villagers were shot and killed by soldiers, who thought the villagers were “militants”, in India’s Nagaland state.
Indian security forces opened fire on civilians late on Saturday in India’s remote northeast region, which borders Myanmar, according to local media reports.
“Based on a credible intelligence of likely movement of insurgents, a specific operation was planned to be conducted,” the army said in a statement on Sunday. “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.”
Nagaland police officer Sandeep M Tamgadge said that the “situation in entire Mon district is very tense right now” and confirmed 13 deaths.
Nagaland’s chief minister Neiphiu Rio told Reuters news agency a probe will be conducted and punishment meted out to guilty parties in the incident, which he ascribed to intelligence failure.
“The unfortunate incident leading to the killing of civilians at Oting is highly condemnable,” he tweeted.
The incident took place in and around Oting village in Mon district during a counterinsurgency operation conducted by members of the Assam Rifles, a part of Indian security forces deployment in the state, a senior police official based in Nagaland said.
Firing began when a truck carrying 30 or more coal-mine labourers was passing the Assam Rifles camp area, officials told Reuters and The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
“The troopers had intelligence inputs about some militant movement in the area and on seeing the truck they mistook the miners to be rebels and opened fire killing six labourers,” the senior police official told Reuters.
“After the news of firing spread in the village, hundreds of tribal people surrounded the camp. They burned Assam Rifles vehicles and clashed with the troopers using crude weapons,” he said.
Members of the Assam Rifles retaliated, and in the second attack eight more civilians and a security member were among those killed, the official said.
Anguished over an unfortunate incident in Nagaland’s Oting, Mon. I express my deepest condolences to the families of those who have lost their lives. A high-level SIT constituted by the State govt will thoroughly probe this incident to ensure justice to the bereaved families.
— Amit Shah (@AmitShah) December 5, 2021
Government forces are battling dozens of ethnic armed groups in India’s remote northeast whose demands range from independent homelands to maximum autonomy within India.
Locals in Nagaland have frequently accused forces of wrongly targeting innocent residents in their counterinsurgency operations against rebel groups.