The insurgent commander alleged to be responsible for the ambush that killed 18 soldiers earlier this month has returned to Nagaland after escaping an Indian Army cross-border raid into Myanmar, government sources have told The Indian Express.
Niki Sumi, chief of military operations of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang), was sighted by intelligence services last week in the forests running along the border with Myanmar in Nagaland’s Phek, Kiphire and Tuensang districts.
Indian special forces, backed by troops from the Assam Rifles, had attacked Sumi’s base at the village of Ponyo on June 9, the sources said, but the intelligence on his whereabouts was not precise
“The government has been seeking the cooperation of Naga insurgent groups committed to the ceasefire with India to track down Sumi and his cadre,” a Ministry of Home Affairs official said. “We are confident that he will be found.”
Sumi, a one-time resident of Naharbari in Dimapur, was named by the Indian government as the key figure in the June 4 ambush, along with the finance chief of the NSCN (K), Starson Lamkang, and ‘Major General’ Neymlang.
Numbering an estimated 1,500 personnel, Sumi’s units are active in the eastern parts of Nagaland, as well as in the Tirap and Changlang districts of neighbouring Arunachal Pradesh. Its cadre are drawn from a welter of Naga clans — the Konyaks of both India and Myanmar, the Aos of Mokokchung district, the Phoms and Yimchungers of Tuensang district, the Angamis, the Semas, the Lothas, and the Pangmeis of Myanmar.
Few details have emerged on the circumstances under which Sumi succeeded in escaping the Ponyo camp, the key target of the raids conducted by the 21 Paracommando regiment on June 9. Based on briefings from Home Ministry officials, media accounts have claimed dozens — perhaps even over 100 — insurgents were killed.
However, subsequent assessments carried out by the Intelligence Bureau suggest actual fatalities in the two insurgent sites targeted by the Army may have been as few as seven, with a dozen injured. The Indian government has made no official claim on fatalities, nor released photographs.
Photographs released by the NSCN (K) purport to show that the group responsible for the June 4 ambush returned to its base at Ponyo, though it suffered two fatalities in the course of the operation. The insurgent group has denied suffering fatalities in the cross-border operation.