Imphal, Dec. 17: The Revolutionary Peoples Front (RPF) today owned up to planting the IED that exploded under a passenger bus last night at Pourabai in Imphal East killing seven passengers and wounding more than 25, but denied exploding it.
Lily Leima, assistant secretary, communication and publicity division of the RPF, said cadres of its military wing, the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA), planted the bomb two days before the incident to target security forces.
The statement said enemies picked up two PLA activists involved in planting the bomb yesterday but instead of removing the bomb, the enemies exploded it to blame the militants.
The statement did not specify who the enemies were but meant the security forces. The outfit, however, apologised to the families of the victims and also to the people of Manipur.
The director-general of police, Yumnam Joykumar Singh, today stopped short of saying the militants targeted the bus deliberately but reasoned: It was a lone bus and could not be mistaken for a security vehicle as soldiers move in convoys.
The RPF statement alleged that in 2002, troops of the Assam Rifles detected a bomb planted by the PLA on the Imphal-Ukhrul Road but did not remove it. To avoid civilian casualties, the PLA had safely exploded the bomb, it claimed.
The outfits denial came when thousands of villagers had gathered near the site of the explosion today to denounce the incident. The villagers, who formed a joint action committee, demanded Rs 3 lakh and a government job each for the families of the dead and Rs 1 lakh each for the injured.
The protesters shouted slogans, saying it was an act of terrorism. The pressure group resolved to construct a memorial site at Pourabai.
The families are yet to accept the bodies which are now lying at the morgue of RIMS. The members of the committee said they would accept it only after their demands were fulfilled.
Chief minister in-charge Th. Devendra Singh and a host of ministers today visited RIMS, where 14 injured people are undergoing treatment.
Devendra Singh announced Rs 1 lakh ex gratia for each of the families of the dead and financial assistance for the injured.
DGP Joykumar Singh fervently appealed to citizens to help the police detect IEDs planted by militants. We have stepped up activities including intelligence gathering to prevent militants from planting IEDs. But the police cannot be everywhere. So unless the people cooperate with us and inform us of planting of bombs, there will be more incidents like Pourabai.
Describing the Manipur bomb blast as a desperate act by anti-national elements, Union home minister Shivraj Patil today said the state should take steps to prevent recurrence of such incidents.