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Militants kill 18 soldiers and wound 11 others in brutal ambush

Manipur: In one of the worst attacks on the Indian Army in the north-east in several years, 18 soldiers were killed in an ambush in the Chandel district of Manipur bordering Myanmar. 

Eleven others were injured, with several of them reported to be in serious condition. 

The surprise attack took place close to Larong when a convoy of troops was moving towards Tengnoupal around 15 kilometres from Myanmar border. 

The Army claimed that it was an administrative convoy, implying that the troops were not on patrol. 

The soldiers from 6th battalion of Dogra regiment were on the re-deployment move when Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) blew up the Army vehicles. 

The blasts were followed by rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) fire. 

Army sources in New Delhi said that troops came under heavy fire from automatic weapons.

The injured jawans were moved to a hospital in Leimakhong and some were taken to Dimapur. 

The attack took place in an area where militants have been active, resulting in a massive clean-up operation by the armed forces. 

The militants, suspected to be belonging to Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (KYKL), a Manipur revolutionary movement, are believed to have escaped across the border. 

The place where the attack took place is a densely-forested area and the militants seem to have carefully chosen the place of encounter as the Army troops were caught totally off guard.

A road opening party had given the go-ahead for the convoy to move as part of standard drill in the militancy-affected zones. 

The officials said that the troops became vulnerable as they were caught in the vehicles restricting their movements. 

The attack shook the security establishment in New Delhi, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi terming the “mindless” incident as “very distressing”. 

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar was huddled in a meeting with Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, the Army chief and the national security adviser Ajit Doval to take stock of the situation. 

Sources said the Army will launch a massive counter-offensive against the militants. The combing operation had already begun, with a large number of troops deployed for the task.

The Army has not suffered such heavy casualties in the north-east in over two decades. 

Thursday’s incident is a chilling reminder that while the national focus has been on Jammu and Kashmir, the country’s eastern borders were equally vulnerable. 

The focus is on KYKL even though newly-floated outfits like the United Liberation Front of Western South Asia, which is a conglomeration of several splinter groups like NSCN (K), Ulfa (I), Kamtapur Liberation Organisation and NDFB (Songbijit), claimed responsibility of the attack. 

Local media reported that Ulfa (I) leader Paresh Baruah called up regional television channels to take responsibility of the ambush. 

He claimed that S.S. Khaplang, head of the group, was the mastermind. 

There seems to be a pattern in Thursday’s killings, as Army troops have come under attack repeatedly in recent months although the casualties have not previously been this high.

The Army lost three soldiers in an ambush in Arunachal Pradesh two months ago, and seven soldiers of Assam Rifles were killed last month in Nagaland. 

The officials said that 6 Dogra was being de-inducted from the Moltuk Valley.

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