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Jawans die in ‘friendly’ fire

Imphal, April 7: Two Assam Rifles personnel were killed and another was wounded when two teams of the paramilitary force operating separately in Chandel district of Manipur exchanged fire mistaking one another for militants last night.

The injured jawan was admitted to the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences here. He was discharged after first aid. The bodies of two personnel were taken to the mortuary of the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences here for post-mortem.

Police and Assam Riles sources said a team of 9 Assam Rifles and another team of 24 Assam Rifles operating in the area around 9.30pm last night fired at each other because of mistaken identity. The gunfight lasted for several minutes killing two personnel of the 24 Assam Rifles and injuring one jawan of the 9 Assam Rifles.

The firing stopped after realising identities of the parties, the police said.

The dead personnel are identified as rifleman Narengbam Suresh Kumar Singh of Wanjing of Thoubal district of Manipur and non-commissioned officer Ram Kishan Singh. Details about Ram Kishan are not available.

The injured jawan identified as rifleman K. Pankaj Kumar is out of danger.

The police said on getting information about militants’ movements in the area, a team of the 9 Assam Rifles was lying in wait at Lokchao, about 95km from Imphal along Imphal-Moreh road, for an ambush.

Getting similar information, another team of 24 Assam Rifles personnel also reached the area. On seeing the 24 Assam Rifles team approaching, the first team opened fire mistaking them for militants. The second team fired back.

“Preliminary investigation suggests that the incident took place because of mistaken identities. Whether any further internal inquiry will be ordered is yet to be decided by the Assam Rifles authorities,” an Assam Rifles source said.

The source, however, said the two teams were on routine patrol when the incident took place.

The 9 Assam Rifles is posted at Manipur’s border township of Moreh while the 24 Assam Rifles is posted at Lokchao.

The Assam Rifles stepped up vigil along the Imphal-Moreh road after an Assam Rifles jawan was killed and three others were wounded in a bomb attack carried out by cadres of the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) at H. Monjang village, about 202km from Imphal along the Imphal-Moreh road on March 15.

The place where the PLA struck was an area dominated by the Assam Rifles.