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Tension over villager killing

Imphal, Dec. 29: Tangkhul-dominated Ukhrul district witnessed mounting tension today after Manipur Peoples Army (MPA) rebels gunned down two villagers in Chassad sub-division last evening.

Police said the rebels of the MPA, the military wing of United National Liberation Front (UNLF), shot the two Tangkhul villagers dead around 4.30pm when they were on the way back to their village, Konkan, from a hunting trip. The slain villagers have been identified as K. Kumar, 48, and K. Ramsung, 40. The UNLF today owned up to the firing in a statement and termed the incident as “unfortunate”.

Ksh. Yoiheiba, senior publicity officer of the UNLF, said an MPA mobile team was lying in wait at Konkan for two days to ambush Assam Rifles patrols. Given the poor visibility, the rebels mistook the villagers for an Assam Rifles foot patrol as they were armed, and opened fire, killing the duo.

Stating that the UNLF central committee took responsibility for the incident, the statement said the incident would be probed and action taken. Extending condolences to the bereaved families, the outfit said it would offer all help to them.

The incident fanned considerable tension in Ukhrul district as it came on the second day of a 72-hour bandh called by United Naga Council (UNC) against alleged attacks on Nagas in the valley during the four-day agitation. The protests stemmed from the alleged molestation of actress Momoco by NSCN (I-M) cadre R.P. Livingstone during a concert in Chandel district on December 18.

Supporters of the statewide general strike called by Film Forum Manipur and Manipur State Shumang Leela Council threw stones at vehicles carrying hill people and allegedly attempted to rape a Tangkhul girl in Imphal East during the strike.

The UNC called the 72-hour bandh in Naga-inhabited areas from December 26 midnight in protest these acts. Five vehicles were torched during the strike in Senapati district. The concluding day of the bandh today, however, remained peaceful.

The post mortem of the two bodies were conducted at the local police station today, while thousands of villagers today took out a rally in Chassad subdivision demanding action against the UNLF militants. Some shops were also reportedly damaged at Konkan.

Members of the film forum, Shumang Leela Council and citizen organisations continued their sit-in at the Shumang Leela complex here for the second day today, demanding the arrest of Livingstone.

In a related development, Irom Sharmila expressed concern over the increase in crimes against women in the state. Talking to reporters during her routine appearance in court here today, Sharmila demanded stern action against perpetrators of crimes against women.