In Nagaland Op That Went Horribly Wrong, Jawans Attacked With Machetes

Nagaland Op News: The forces, which laid an ambush for insurgents, immediately opened fire, killing six of the coal miners who were in the truck, army sources said.

In Nagaland Op That Went Horribly Wrong, Jawans Attacked With Machetes

Nagaland Killings: The incident took place in Oting village in Mon district of Nagaland.

New Delhi:

The Nagaland counter-insurgency operation that went horrifically wrong and led to 15 deaths over the weekend, had started after a unit of the army's elite 21 Para Special Forces thought they saw a hunting rifle in a truck that was coming along the Tiru-Oting road of Mon district. The forces, which laid an ambush for insurgents, immediately opened fire, killing six of the coal miners who were in the truck, army sources said. Two others, who were injured, were taken to the hospital by the army.  By evening, the matter went out of hand as villagers arrived and attacked the troops with machetes and killed one of them on the spot, slashing his throat.

Army sources say it was the unit's intention to move the dead bodies of the villagers to a police station. There was never any effort to hide or dispose of any of the bodies.

Saturday's violence in the border district of Mon was being conducted without the knowledge of the police or Assam Rifles, the para-military force which has a key role in handling insurgency in this area -- a point that led the police to conclude that the "intention of security forces is to murder and injure civilians".

Army sources said the jawans realized that the occupants of the truck were unarmed shortly after they had opened fire. There was no counterattack. They went to verify and found two of the men were injured but still alive. The troops took both of them to the hospital.  

The police, army sources said, were late in arriving at the spot of the ambush. By 7:30 pm, the villagers had arrived at the spot and attacked the jawans. At least 13 soldiers sustained machete wounds. Some of them are in a serious condition. The forces had no option but to open fire, in which five villagers died.

A First Information Report filed by the police mentioned that the army had "blankly opened fire at the vehicle without any provocation".

"It is to be noted that at the time of incident there was no police guide nor security forces did make requisition to police station to provide police guide for their operation. Hence it is obvious that the intention of security forces is to murder and injure civilians," read a copy of the FIR accessed by NDTV.

In its preliminary report, the police also said the villagers went to the spot hearing gunshots and found the Special Forces trying to hide the dead bodies by moving them to another pick-up truck.  The bodies were found under a tarpaulin sheet, sources had said, adding that it angered the villagers and violence broke out.

The army sources have denied that the troops were trying to hide or dispose of any of the bodies.

Army sources also said the unit of the 21 Para Special Forces has returned to its base and a Court of Inquiry has been ordered, which is being headed by a Major General. There has been no change in the command structure of 21 SF at the moment, sources said.

In a statement yesterday, the army had expressed regret for the "incident and its aftermath" and in a statement, promised investigation "at the highest level and appropriate action... as per the course of law".

Prosecution of the men involved in the botched operation can only happen after government sanction.  The army is yet to receive any request for police questioning of the men.

The Mon area is the bastion of Naga group NSCN(K) and Assam's ULFA (United Liberation Front of Asom) and the district which shares an international border with Myanmar as well as the state border with Assam.  The area is known to be sensitive and volatile.

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