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Ibobi takes serious view of Siroy siege

Imphal, Jan. 23: Manipur chief minister Ibobi Singh, who has taken a serious view of the standoff in Siroy village between the Assam Rifles and NSCN (I-M) rebels, presided over a cabinet meeting tonight, but gave no details.

“The cabinet and the security meeting at the secretariat reviewed the situation and discussed measures to prevent a clash,” a highly placed source said.

The secretariat meeting decided to put all the security agencies in the state, particularly in Ukhrul, on high alert.

The Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights (south sector) today urged the Manipur government to defuse the tension arising out of the standoff in Ukhrul district.

In a memorandum submitted to Ukhrul deputy commissioner Pankaj Kumar Pal, the rights panel cautioned that if the situation did not ease within the next 24 hours, Siroy villagers would have no alternative but to flee their homes.

The group urged the deputy commissioner to provide security to the villagers and protect their properties if they have to leave.

The 17 Assam Rifles surrounded a camp of the NSCN (I-M) on January 18 after the militants, who are not supposed to set up shelters outside Nagaland according to ceasefire ground rules, refused to surrender their weapons.

The women of Siroy and other surrounding villages have placed themselves between the troops and the militants to avoid bloodshed.

The Assam Rifles have not only strengthened their position and weaponry in preparation of a confrontation but also put up a barbed wire around the camp. Nobody is being allowed in or out of the camp. The militants, too, are preparing for a showdown.

The paramilitary force, however, is still looking for the killer jawan who is accused of gunning down six of his colleagues at the Awang Kasom a checkpost, 10km from Siroy village, on Wednesday.

“Our troops are still continuing the search in the district for the absconding jawan. We will track him down,” Assam Rifles spokesman Maj. Shamsher Jung said today.

He said the unfriendly and vast hilly terrain covered with thick forest was coming in the way of the search operations.

Sources said the jawan could have taken shelter with a militant group in Ukhrul or in a village.

The NSCN (I-M) has a strong presence in this district, home to the outfit’s leader, Thuingaleng Muivah.

“The Naga villagers will always have sympathy for a fellow Naga in distress. On the other hand, any militant group would love to shake hands with a deserter who had killed so many security personnel. There are many possibilities,” a source in the state home department said.

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