Kohima, April 16: Militants of the NSCN (Isak-Muivah) have again made a mockery of the ceasefire in Nagaland, killing seven members of the rival Khaplang group since yesterday.
Around 100 heavily-armed militants pummelled the residence of Kitovi Zhimomi, general secretary of the NSCN (K), at Amphoto Colony in Zunheboto town with mortars and rockets. Six of the NSCN (K) militants guarding the colony died in the attack.
Zunheboto, one of the last remaining bastions of the NSCN (K) in Nagaland, is about 150 km from the state capital.
Another NSCN (K) member died in a clash with the Isak-Muivah faction at Seirhima near Medziphema subdivision, about 70 km from Kohima, today.
The area has been tense for sometime because of the growing presence of militants from both factions of the NSCN.
Kughalu Mulatonu, a senior NSCN (K) functionary, said both his and Zhimomi’s residences were bombarded without provocation.
Mulatonu and Zhimomi, his brother-in-law, were elsewhere when the NSCN (I-M) team mounted the attack. Their families were in a church for Sunday mass.
The exchange of fire continued in spurts till noon today despite intervention by India Reserve Battalion commandos and Assam Rifles and CRPF personnel.
Sources said NSCN (I-M) militants moved into Zhimomi’s residence after forcing their rivals to flee. The Zunheboto administration, however, claimed that the situation was under control.
As on previous occasions when the two militant factions clashed in residential areas of the town, several NGOs appealed to them to vacate the colony immediately.
Police remained tight-lipped about the incident, only saying that they were “looking into the incident”.
The NSCN (I-M) issued a statement later in the day, insisting that the Khaplang group triggered the skirmish by targeting its members midway through a prayer service at Amphoto Colony.
“The GPRN (Government of the People’s Republic of Nagalim) requests the general public to kindly understand the gravity of the situation and bear with the inconveniences thereof,” it said.
The militant group also boasted about the successful “retaliatory” strike. Apart from inflicting six casualties, it captured two members of the rival faction and snatched six weapons, including two Kalashnikov rifles, a self-loading rifle, an M-21 sniper rifle and two .303 guns.
Isak Sumi, a spokesman for the NSCN (K), said the attack bore the Isak-Muivah faction’s stamp. He said the militants involved in the incident broke into Zhimomi’s house and destroyed household goods, including computers, a mini pool table and a table tennis board. “Almirahs and closets were broken and valuables stolen. Even furniture, utensils, television sets, refrigerators were either destroyed or taken away. This incident occurred when the entire family was attending a church service.”
The ceasefire monitoring group, comprising representatives of the NSCN (I-M) and Delhi, held an emergency meeting in Dimapur to review the situation.
The NSCN (I-M) has been pressuring Delhi to “control” its rival faction, whom it looks at as a “pro-India militia”. The outfit believes Delhi has been aiding and abetting the activities of its rival to undermine the Naga cause.