SIX MILITANTS of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak Muivah (NSCN-IM) were killed and an Assam Rifles personnel was injured during an encounter in Arunachal Pradesh’s Longding district on Saturday, the Army said. Somnyam Tangkhul, who was involved in the killing of a sitting MLA and 10 others in the state last year, led the group of six, a senior police officer said.
The Indian Army, Assam Rifles and Arunachal Pradesh Police launched a joint operation near Nginu in Longding in the early hours of Saturday based on specific inputs about the presence of armed cadres of the proscribed group in the area, according to an Army statement issued by a Guwahati-based defence PRO.
“On seeing the search column of troops, the insurgents opened a heavy volume of fire in a bid to flee,” the statement said, adding that a gunfight ensued as security personnel retaliated.
“The operation is in progress, identification of neutralised cadres and their allegiance to NSCN-IM faction operating in Myanmar is being ascertained while the injured soldier has been evacuated and is in stable condition,” the Army statement said.
Four AK-47 and two Chinese MQ rifles, ammunition, IEDs, and other warlike stores were recovered, the Army said.
With a stronghold of Naga insurgent groups, the Tirap, Changlang and Longding districts of eastern Arunachal Pradesh—surrounded by Assam, Nagaland and Myanmar—are violence-prone areas where the AFSPA is in force.
Last year, on the heels of the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in Arunachal Pradesh, suspected cadres of the NSCN had gunned down a sitting MLA, Tirong Aboh, and 10 others, including his son and security personnel, in Tirap district. Aboh (45) was a member of the National People’s Party (NPP) and the sitting MLA as well as candidate from Khonsa West constituency. His wife Chakat Aboh won the seat after his death.
The group of militants was allegedly sent by Rockwang alias Absolom Tangkhul, a self-styled major general of the NSCN-IM who is the main accused in the killing of the MLA and 10 others.
Speaking to The Sunday Express over the phone, Longding SP Bharat Reddy Bommareddy said the encounter began around 4.30 am and continued for nearly two hours before the insurgents were neutralised. “The district borders Assam, Nagaland and Myanmar. The border with Myanmar is dotted with dense jungles and terrorists take advantage of that.”
The NSCN-IM is the largest and most influential Naga group and is currently in peace talks with the Centre. But cadres of the outfit and the NSCN’s other factions are allegedly involved in violence in these three districts.