Imphal, Sept. 13: Eight labourers were killed and 13 others injured when a powerful improvised explosive device (IED) exploded inside a workers’ shed at Nagamapal in the heart of Imphal city at 7.40 tonight.
According to senior police officials who did not wish to be named, five of the victims died on the spot while three others were declared dead at the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS), which is located barely 1km from the site of the blast. Police said the condition of six of the injured, all of whom were admitted to RIMS, was serious.
The police said the labourers were preparing to have dinner when the blast took place. The shed is constructed on a concrete slab covering the Naga Nullah also known as Naga river, which flows through the densely populated commercial hub. The shed, which was made of bamboo mats and GIC sheets, was splattered with blood inside, a police source said. The labourers had been there only for a day having arrived yesterday.
While no group has claimed responsibility for the blast, police suspected it to be the handiwork of a militant outfit. There are at least 40 militant groups active in Manipur.
While police were trying to identify the kind of bomb used in the blast, initial indications were that it was a remote-controlled device, sources said. “The victims have suffered splinter and blast wounds,” said Imphal West superintendent of police Jayanta Singh.
The labourers, engaged by Simplex Projects Ltd, had been engaged in a project involving the covering of the Naga Nullah with concrete slabs. An official of the construction company said most of the labourers were brought from Assam’s Jorhat and Kamrup districts. The names of the deceased and injured persons were not available, as police restricted entry to the casualty department of the RIMS once the victims were brought in.
“We are still looking for the company representative,” Singh said.
There are an estimated 5,000 non-Manipuri labourers living in and around Imphal. Non-Manipuri labourers also have a presence in other districts of Manipur.
Police officers, however, were unhappy with the firm because the stay of the labourers had not been reported to the police.
Police declined to speculate on whether the blast had anything to do with an “oust non-Manipuri” campaign by a coordination committee of militant groups of Manipur.
The coordination committee of six militant groups had set December 31 last year as the deadline for all the non-Manipuris to leave Manipur.
The last attack on non-Manipuris was carried out by militants in June this year where two non-Manipuri labourers were killed when militants attacked a rented house with a grenade at Uripok locality in Imphal West. There have, however, been no statements from any militant group in recent months regarding the ouster campaign.
“Today’s was an unfortunate incident. We are investigating the matter and are right now focused on treating the injured persons. It is too early to say which group is responsible for the blast. Bomb experts are investigating,” the director-general of police M.K. Das, who visited the injured at the hospital said. Precautions were being taken to protect other non-Manipuris staying in and around Imphal city, he said.
Explosion at Khurai
This morning, annother IED was triggered near a bus stand at Khurai, on the outskirts of this city, damaging an autorickshaw and injuring the driver of another.
The Peoples Liberation Army (PLA), the armed wing of the Revolutionary People’s Front (RPF), claimed responsibility for the attack.
Police said the IED, planted near the bus stand along Imphal-Ukhrul road, was triggered with a remote control device.
Both the autorickshaws were parked near the bus stand when the bomb went off around 10.30am.
The driver of one of the autorickshaws, Ningthoukhongjam Romen, was inside his vehicle when the IED exploded. He sustained minor splinter injuries, the police said.
Chongtham Romeo, owner and driver of the other autorickshaw which was damaged in the blast, said he was at his home near the blast site when the bomb went off.
“I heard a loud sound and when I came out I learnt that there was a bomb blast. Then I saw my damaged auto. If I had been at the bus stand, I could have died. Such incidents should not occur at public places. I was lucky I was home at that time taking lunch,” Romeo said.
Five personnel of an Assam Rifles foot patrol team, sitting in the waiting shed of the stand, however, escaped without injuries. Assam Rifles personnel regularly patrol the area on foot and use the waiting shed to take rest.
A portion of a nearby shop was also damaged.
The incident disrupted classes at Khurai Popular High School, which was closed immediately after the blast.
The police and Assam Rifles personnel combed the area after the blast and rounded up three persons.
Claiming responsibility for the blast in a statement, RPF publicity chief Bangkim said the attack was carried out by a “special warfare group” of the PLA. He said the 252 mobile battalion of the PLA had also attacked a security post at Aishi village in Chandel district on September 9.
In another development, the police and the Assam Rifles yesterday arrested Laishram Gunamani, 32, “chief of army staff” of Kangleipak Communist Party-Military Council (Nongdrenkhomba group), from Kongba in Imphal East district on charges of extortion.
Gunamani is a signatory to the memorandum of understanding signed by Nongdrenkhomba group with the government on September 9 to pave the way for peace talks.