Imphal, Nov. 20: Seven CRPF personnel were today killed in an ambush by militants of the Manipur People’s Army, the military wing of the outlawed United National Liberation Front, near the Loktak hydroelectric project at Leimatak.
The slain personnel include a sub-inspector, two head constables and four constables, all from the CRPF’s 110 Battalion.
A spokesman for the Manipur People’s Army telephoned The Telegraph to claim responsibility for the ambush. He said members of the outfit took away six weapons and a wireless set from the CRPF team.
Official sources confirmed the loss of weapons, including a two-inch mortar, two self-loading rifles, an AK-47 rifle, a one carbine and an Insas rifle.
Additional director-general of police (operations) Y. Joykumar Singh is supervising combing operations in and around the ambush site, which is 60 km from the state capital. Senior CRPF and police officials had rushed to the area with reinforcements almost immediately after the ambush.
Joykumar Singh said “about 30 well-armed militants” were involved in the assault. “They had taken up positions atop a hill, which was an advantage in the exchange of fire,” he added.
Though the combing operation will continue till at least tomorrow, the police are not sure if the militants are still in the area. “They may have sneaked out by the time reinforcements reached the site of the ambush,” the additional DGP said.
The assault on the CRPF party, led by an inspector, had taken place around 8 am. The security personnel had just come out of their camp at Leimatak for patrolling on foot when they were greeted by gunfire. Seven of the 22 members in the patrol party were killed on the spot.
The slain personnel have been identified as sub-inspector Om Prakash, head constables Ravindra Kumar and K. Francis, and constables Md. Murthi, K. Rathi, Santosh Kumar and Billop Marx. The victims’ bodies are being kept at the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences and will be sent to their native places tomorrow after post-mortem.
Intelligence agencies had alerted the CRPF authorities to the possibility of an attack by militants in the vicinity of the Loktak hydroelectric project, sources said. The area had recently witnessed a heavy exchange of fire between a group of militants and a police team.
An hour before the ambush on the CRPF team, a senior functionary of the proscribed People’s Liberation Army’s medical wing, was killed in a shootout with police commandos at Kyamgei village of Imphal East district. Sources said a revolver was recovered from the slain militant, identified as “second lieutenant” Kh. Keirenmacha.