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regular-article-logo Tuesday, 05 March 2024

13 dead in Manipur suspected to be members of banned Meitei outfit People’s Liberation Army

They were headed to Myanmar but lost their way and 'landed in hostile territory', a police officer said

Umanand Jaiswal Guwahati Published 06.12.23, 06:59 AM
Family members mourn as they arrive at JNIMS mortuary in Imphal on Tuesday to claim the bodies of the 13 people killed after a gunfight on Monday.

Family members mourn as they arrive at JNIMS mortuary in Imphal on Tuesday to claim the bodies of the 13 people killed after a gunfight on Monday. PTI photo

The 13 men whose bodies were found near a village in Tengnoupal district of Manipur on Monday are suspected to be “newly-recruited members” of a militant outfit.

They were headed to Myanmar but lost their way and “landed in hostile territory”, a police officer said on Tuesday.

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Although the official did not reveal the identity of the group, reports from Manipur suggest that the men were suspected members of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), one of nine Meitei militant organisations banned for five more years by the Union home ministry on November 13.

The police officer said the deceased were from the Meitei community and hailed from the valley districts of Imphal East, Imphal West, Thoubal and Bishnupur.

They were trying to cross over to Myanmar, which is about 35km from Leithao village in Tengnoupal district, where the gunfight took place on Monday. Leithao is a Kuki-Zo village.

“They were going to Myanmar for training but came across a suspected armed group of miscreants/volunteers... from the Kuki community. The bodies were recovered from the vicinity of the village. It is a small hamlet of about seven houses and all its residents fled after the incident,” the official said.

Since ethnic violence erupted in the state on May 3, the Meitei and Kuki-Zo populations are living in separate areas. Amid deep mutual suspicion, village defence groups patrol the areas to ward off possible attacks from the other community. In seven months, at least 197 people are dead and over 67,000 are displaced.

On Monday night, the Manipur police had posted on X that 13 people were killed in a gunfight between “unknown armed miscreants” that took place at Leithao village near Saibol under Machi police station. No arms were found near the bodies.

There were heart-rending scenes at the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences (JNIMS) in Imphal, where the post-mortem of the bodies took place, on Tuesday.

A member of the bereaved family, sources said, asked the N. Biren Singh government why it had not been able to restore peace even after seven months and why people were being killed regularly.

The bereaved families decided to hold the cremation at Andro in Imphal East district.

The women’s market in Imphal West, a popular tourist destination, observed a bandh to mourn the “murder” of the 13 persons who were mostly in their teens and twenties.

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