NEW DELHI: The killing of 13 villagers in Nagaland by security forces points to a clear case of intelligence failure, sources in the security establishment said on Sunday.
Officials, however, claimed that security forces mistook six civilians for insurgents and shot them. In response, locals attacked the security forces with machetes and spears.
Afterwards, soldiers of Assam Rifles opened fire again, killing seven more civilians.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah said he was “anguished” at the news of civilians, who were members of a tribal group, being killed.
“Anguished over an unfortunate incident in Nagaland’s Oting, Mon district. I express my deepest condolences to the families of those who have lost their lives. A high-level SIT constituted by the state government will thoroughly probe this incident to ensure justice to the bereaved families,” Shah tweeted.
Saturday’s incident took place in and around Oting village in Mon district, bordering Myanmar, during a counterinsurgency operation.
Firing began when a truck carrying 30 or more coalmine labourers were passing the Assam Rifles camp.
“The troopers had intelligence inputs about some movement of armed cadres of NSCN(K) in the area and on seeing the truck, they mistook the miners for rebels and opened fire which killed six labourers,” a senior security official said, adding that there was a clear lapse of intelligence as well as operational failure.
“After the news of firing spread, hundreds of tribal people surrounded the camp. They burnt Assam Rifles vehicles and clashed with troopers with crude weapons,” he said.
Assam Rifles soldiers retaliated, and in the second attack seven more civilians and a security force member were killed, the official said.
In recent years, India has tried to persuade Myanmar to evict rebels from bases in the thick jungles of the unfenced region, which borders Nagaland, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.
The Mon area is the stronghold of Naga group NSCN (K) and ULFA.
Meanwhile, one person was killed and two others injured in firing by security forces in Mon district of Nagaland on Sunday afternoon as an angry mob attacked an Assam Rifles camp and the office of the Konyak Union, police sources said.
The mob went on a rampage, vandalising the Assam Rifles camp in Mon town, provoking the firing, they said.
The mob was demanding immediate action against the security personnel involved in the killing of the 13 people on Saturday evening, they said.
At least one person was killed and two people were injured in the firing, they added.
Videos of the vandalism went viral on social media even as the authorities imposed a ban on internet services in the district.
Prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CrPC were also imposed in Mon where the situation is volatile, officials said.
The orders, which came into effect immediately, banned the gathering of five or more persons and all non-essential vehicular movement, as per a notification issued by Deputy Commissioner Thavaseelan K.
Director-General of Police T John Longkumar and top state government officials are currently at the spot to take stock of the situation, officials in Kohima said.
So far, 14 civilians have lost their lives and 11 others injured in three incidents of firing by the security forces in Mon district, police said.
Six civilians were killed in the first incident of firing on Saturday evening when Army personnel mistook coal mine workers to be insurgents, while seven people were gunned down as angry locals attacked the security forces in retaliation.
One soldier also died in the rioting that broke out after the first incident of firing, they said.
Candlelight services were held in churches across the Christian-majority state in condemnation of the killings.
Moreover, the incident cast a shadow on the signature Hornbill Festival of the state that was being attended by diplomats from several nations, including the US, Australia and Germany.
At least 11 apex tribal bodies of the 17 major tribes backed off from the festival in solidarity with those killed.(THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS)