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CBI to probe Elizabeth murder

Imphal, Jan. 22: A jittery Manipur government decided to call in the CBI to investigate the murder of taxation minister Francis Ngajokpa’s youngest daughter after a suspect in the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah)’s custody named two cabinet members and the Speaker as the conspirators.

In a statement yesterday, the NSCN (I-M) said James Kuki, alias Letsei Haokip, had linked tribal development minister Ngamthang Haokip, works minister Gaikhangam and Assembly speaker T.. Haokip to the abduction and murder of the schoolgirl. It said all three paid money to the suspect to keep him quiet.

Lungnila Elizabeth, 8, was kidnapped on November 4 from Imphal’s Little Flower School. Her body was found eight days later.

Emerging from a cabinet meeting this afternoon, chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh said the government was confident the CBI would nail the culprits soon. “If ministers were involved (in the abduction and murder), action will be taken against them in accordance with the law.”

The NSCN (I-M) captured James on January 11, but has yet to hand him over to Manipur police. The militant group said the suspect, who was apprehended along with his wife at Burma Camp in Dimapur town of Nagaland, had admitted to meeting the Speaker and the two ministers after Elizabeth’s murder. “They warned James not to link them to the case under any circumstance and sent him away after giving some money.”

The militant group claimed some senior police officials were indirectly party to the crime.

Dismissing the James’ purported confession as “baseless”, Ibobi Singh said the Secular Progressive Front government was being targeted by the NSCN (I-M) because of its “firm stand” against the outfit’s “designs” on Manipur.

He said James was either lying to save his life or the NSCN (I-M) was concocting stories to get even with his government. He said there was reason to suspect the militant group was colluding with the Opposition.

“It is no coincidence that the Speaker and the two ministers named by James have been playing important roles in maintaining political stability in the state. If the CBI indicts me, I will resign.”

The chief minister said the police investigation into Elizabeth’s murder would continue even after the CBI took up the case.

On whether the government was trying to get custody of James, he said deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani had been requested to persuade the NSCN (I-M) to hand over the suspect to Manipur police.

A couple of days ago, the director-general of police asked the chairperson of the ceasefire monitoring committee in Nagaland, Lt Gen. (retd) R.V. Kulkarni, to facilitate James’ transfer to Manipur.

The chairperson promised to speak to the NSCN (I-M) leadership about it.

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