Imphal, Jan 2:
At least four people were killed and 14 others sustained serious bullet injuries after a clash broke out between unidentified armed gunmen and locals of the Lilong Chingjao area in Thoubal district yesterday. The armed rebel group Revolutionary People’s Front (RPF) claimed responsibility for the incident, stating that it occurred while its members were taking “defensive measures” as per a standing order.
In response to the incident, the state government re-imposed a curfew on the second day of 2024 in Thoubal and Imphal West districts of Manipur. Chief Minister N Biren Singh, in a video message, urged residents of Lilong to avoid further violence and maintain peace and tranquility in the area. The CM also assured that strict action would be taken against the culprits.
A team from the state police and the Forensic Science department inspected the incident site in the afternoon. According to eyewitnesses, the violence occurred after a group of unidentified armed individuals in police uniforms entered the residence of MD Hassan in Lilong Chingjao, Thoubal district. The armed individuals arrived in three Gypsy vehicles and threatened the residents, including MD Hassan’s wife, to reveal his whereabouts. The locals intervened to rescue the family, leading to the clash.
The injured were taken to Raj Medicity Hospital at North AOC. The Chief Minister personally visited the hospital and met with those injured during the incident in Lilong on January 1 evening.
Highlighting the critical period Manipur is going through, the Chief Minister questioned the rationality of inciting hatred and fighting among the people instead of standing united against those trying to divide the state. He reiterated his stance against individuals taking the law into their own hands and stated that the government would not remain silent, taking action against anyone who does so. He warned that if necessary, the government may re-impose the unwanted AFSPA and called on the people to identify the enemies of Manipur and face them together.
The Chief Minister appealed to the people not to take the law into their own hands and instead inform the relevant authorities if they notice anything suspicious. He urged them to cooperate so that necessary actions can be taken.
Meanwhile, the proscribed group RPF, while claiming responsibility, stated that the incident occurred after its cadres attempted to apprehend MD Hassan, whom they accused of being a drug smuggler. The RPF’s STAFORCE (Special Task Force) members went to pick up MD Hassan, who had been warned multiple times to stop drug smuggling. A large crowd gathered and attacked the cadres while they were taking MD Hassan. The STAFORCE members fired shots in the air as a warning, but the crowd did not retreat. In self-defense, the cadres had no choice but to retaliate.
The mob subsequently set fire to the three vehicles, causing bombs and bullets to explode.
The RPF statement expressed condolences for the death of the four individuals and shared the pain of those injured during the incident. The group promised to conduct an inquiry to determine how the incident occurred.