One day after two Class VII students, were killed when security forces came under fire while returning from an encounter site in Phek district in Nagaland, the Assam Rifles said the two children were victims of the NSCN(K) who were using innocent people as human shields.
A press release issued by the Assam Rifles Inspector General in Kohima said that a column of four Assam Rifles vehicles which were returning from an overnight operation near Avangkhu village in Meluri sub-division in Phek district was stopped by local villagers in Phor village.
“The villagers asked the Company Commander to hand over the body of the killed self-styled NSCN(K) Captain Puhachu, however, they were politely informed by the Company Commander that the body will be handed over to them by the Police, after completing the necessary legal formalities,” the press release said.
But, even as the negotiations were going on, at around 6:45 PM, the leading vehicle of the Assam Rifles column came under heavy gunfire from the multiple directions. “Maximum fire came from a hill feature in the opposite direction of the village. Some fire flashes were also observed from the direction of the village. As the firing started, the villagers starting running amok in panic,” it said.
The Assam Rifles troops also fired back at the NSCN(K) cadres, who were on the hill feature. “The troops however did not fire towards the village due to the presence of many villagers. During the firing, two persons of Assam Rifles sustained gunshot injuries,” the press release said.
“While the injured persons were evacuated by road after the firing stopped, it was subsequently revealed later on that two children and one woman of Phor village also sustained gunshot injuries, out of which two children succumbed to their injuries, apparently due to fire of NSCN(K) cadres from a hilltop,” the Assam Rifles press release said.
The Assam Rifles said that the incident indicated that innocent villagers were apparently coerced by the NSCN(K) cadres to block the road and help in in laying an ambush on the troops. “The firing from the village also indicated that the NSCN(K) cadres were using the villagers as human shields, which resulted in the unfortunate death of two children and injury to one woman,” it said.