- At least 13 civilians have been gunned down by security forces in Nagaland's Mon district
- A soldier also lost his life during the riots that followed
- Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio promised a high-level probe into the incident
Nagaland civilians killing: Security forces opened fire on civilians killing 13 and injuring several others in Nagaland's Mon district in two consecutive incidents of firing, police said, adding that it is investigating whether the incident was a case of mistaken identity. A soldier also lost his life during the riots that followed.
Earlier, the death toll of civilians was 11, but it later rose to 13 on Sunday afternoon.
Nagaland government has formed a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe into the firing incident, an order issued by state home department signed by Chief Secretary J Alam said.
The first firing occurred when army personnel who mistook some coal mine workers were returning home in a pick-up van singing songs on Saturday evening, to be insurgents belonging to the Yung Aung faction of proscribed outfit NSCN (K), killing six workers, about whose movements they had been tipped off. They were daily wagers at the coal mine, the police officer said.
As workers failed to reach their homes, local youth and villagers went in search of them and surrounded the army vehicles. In the ensuing melee one soldier was killed and army vehicles burnt down. Soldiers who fired in self-defence killed another seven civilians, said police officials.
Angry mobs have since then on Sunday afternoon vandalised the offices of the Konyak Union and an Assam Rifles camp. The Nagaland government through a notification has banned mobile internet and data services as well as bulk SMS in the district to curb "circulation of inflammatory video's, pictures or text".
Police said that the post-mortem of the 13 killed is being conducted in Mon and feared that the number of fatalities may increase as at least two of those injured were critical and had to be evacuated to hospitals in Assam while the rest were being treated in Nagaland.
Ordering a Court of Inquiry into the incident, Army said one of its personnel was killed and several others were seriously injured. It said that the incident and its aftermath are "deeply regretted" and the unfortunate loss of lives is being investigated at the highest level.
The vehicle was allegedly fired upon by Army personnel, who were conducting an operation in the area after receiving inputs on the movement of militants of Yung Aung faction of proscribed outfit NSCN (K), he said.
An investigation is underway to ascertain whether the incident was a case of mistaken identity, the officer said.
Mon shares a porous international border with Myanmar, where the Yung Aung faction of NSCN (K) is based. The situation is under control and police are conducting spot verification, he said.
Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio assured a high-level probe into the incident and appealed to all sections of the society to maintain peace. The state government has constituted a five-member Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by IGP Nagaland.
In a tweet, the chief minister said, “The unfortunate incident leading to the killing of civilians at Oting, Mon is highly condemnable. Condolences to the bereaved families & speedy recovery of those injured. High-level SIT will investigate & justice delivered as per the law of the land. Appeal for peace from all sections.”
Deputy Chief Minister Yanthungo Patton promised that justice will be delivered.
"Oting's (Mon) disturbing and tragic incident in which civilians were killed will be thoroughly investigated and justice will be served. Condolences to the bereaved families and prayers for the speedy recovery of the injured. In the wake of the tragedy, I urge peace from everyone!" he tweeted.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah also expressed his condolences over the incident and said a high-level SIT constituted by the state government will thoroughly probe this incident “to ensure justice to the bereaved families".
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Sunday attacked the Centre over the killing of civilians in Nagaland, saying the government must give a "real reply" as to what is the home ministry doing when "neither civilians nor security personnel are safe in our own land".
"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?" Rahul Gandhi tweeted.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee also expressed her condolences over the incident.
In a tweet, Mamata Banerjee said, "Worrisome news from #Nagaland. Heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families. I pray for the speedy recovery of those who were injured."
"We must ensure a thorough probe into the incident and ensure that all victims get justice!" she added.
Though the Army is yet to issue a statement, Assam Rifles has denied its involvement in the incident.
(with PTI inputs)