Militants launch surprise attack on Manipur Police Commandos in Moreh; 4 injured

The assault took place several hours following an earlier attack on a different group of Manipur Police commandos along the Imphal-Moreh highway.

Militants launched an unexpected assault on Manipur Police commandos within their barracks in the border town of Moreh on Saturday night. Utilizing rocket-propelled grenades (RPG), the attackers inflicted significant damage to the barracks. Four commandos sustained minor injuries during the attack.

This incident took place in Moreh, a town that has been on high alert since Saturday afternoon. It occurred mere hours after another unit of the Manipur Police commandos, travelling along the Imphal-Moreh highway, was targeted earlier in the day. During this earlier attack, one commando sustained injuries from shrapnel when the convoy came under heavy fire at approximately 3.45 pm on Saturday.

The four injured commandos were promptly transported to the nearby hospital of the Assam Rifles. Following the incident, senior officials of the Assam Rifles have flown to Moreh, a border town situated near the India-Myanmar border.

According to officials, the militants, who had been concealed in the hills, took advantage of the cover of darkness and engaged in firing at the barracks for nearly half an hour. “The situation was under control after the afternoon incident. However, around midnight, militants fired RPGs and unleashed heavy gunfire on the commandos who were sleeping inside the barracks. Four of them sustained minor injuries. One of them may have suffered damage to his ear due to the blast from the explosives,” revealed an official familiar with the matter.

Kaikholal Haokip, the spokesperson for the Kuki Inpi Tengnoupal, a collective organization representing Kuki residents of Tengnoupal, has confirmed that unidentified gunmen launched an attack on the commandos late at night. Following the incident, senior officers from the Assam Rifles have arrived in Moreh. As a result, a curfew has been imposed once again, and security forces are currently engaged in meetings to address the situation. The atmosphere remains tense, according to Haokip. Moreh falls under the administrative jurisdiction of Tengnoupal district.

The state of Manipur, which has been plagued by ethnic conflicts, experienced a disruption in the nearly one-month-long period of peace on Saturday morning. A gunfight broke out between volunteers from Meitei and Kuki villages, resulting in the death of one individual. Before this incident, a gunfight on December 4 in Tengnoupal district had claimed the lives of 13 people. Ethnic violence has gripped Manipur since early May, with clashes erupting between the Meiteis, the largest community in the state, and the tribal Kukis. While the majority of the violence occurred in the days following May 3, sporadic attacks between the communities have persisted.

According to government figures, the violence has resulted in the loss of 197 lives and the displacement of over 50,000 individuals from both communities. Meiteis from the Kuki-dominated hills have been forced to flee their homes, while Kukis from the Meitei-dominated Imphal valley have also been displaced. The tension has led to the formation of armed “village defence volunteers” based on community affiliations.

On Saturday morning at approximately 3:30 am, senior police officials reported an exchange of gunfire between village defence volunteers from the Kuki and Meitei communities. This incident occurred in the hill ranges between Nakhujang and Singda Kuki villages, falling under the jurisdiction of Kangchup police station. The exchange of fire continued until around 4:20 am, as confirmed by the police. During the gunfire, a Meitei man named Ningombam James, aged 32 and a resident of Imphal West, sustained bullet injuries and was subsequently taken to the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences (JNIMS) for treatment.