Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Move to track UNLF rebels

- Search & destroy drive in somtal

Police commandos during a search operation in Imphal East on Monday. Picture by Eastern Projections
Imphal, Nov. 24: Security forces today launched a major operation at Old Somtal in Manipur’s Chandel district to track down the United National Liberation Front militants who killed five Assam Rifles personnel, including two officers, yesterday.

The operation, launched on the UNLF’s 45th raising day, is aimed at locating rebel camps in the area and destroying them.

“We have launched a major search-and-destroy operation in the area. So far, the search parties have not made any contact with the militants, nor has there been any encounter as they are fleeing from our troops,” a senior official of the Assam Rifles told this correspondent.

He said the operation had been launched jointly by the army and the 26 Sector Assam Rifles based at Pallel in Thoubal district.

He hoped the troops would yield results by tomorrow, thereby indicating that the forces had surrounded the area and were preparing for a major offensive.

The Manipur Peoples Army, the military wing of the UNLF, had ambushed a convoy of 43 Assam Rifles that was coming from its base at Old Somtal along the Indo-Myanmar border to collect water around 9am. Five soldiers, including a major and a captain, were killed in the attack. The outfit also took away five weapons.

The UNLF claimed to have ambushed the reinforcement troops as well, killing four more personnel. The Assam Rifles, however, denied the claim.

Sources said the UNLF had a strong presence in Somtal despite the army and the Assam Rifles having moved into the area in December 2007 to clear it of the rebels who had declared it a “liberated zone”.

Yesterday’s attack is being seen as an attempt by the group to demonstrate that it is a still a force to reckon with.

The UNLF is also trying to establish “mutual help” with the Maoists who are emerging as an anti-government force across the country.

In a statement issued by its central committee on its raising day today, the UNLF said the emergence of the Maoists, who recognised the sovereignty of Manipur, was a favourable factor for Manipur’s struggle for liberation and that of the region as a whole.

“Therefore, the difference in specific conditions and objectives notwithstanding, the UNLF believes that there is a common interest in the fight against the Indian state by the CPI (Maoist) and the liberation struggles of Manipur and the region. Guided by this perspective, the UNLF shall actively pursue a policy of mutual help and support with the Indian revolution through the CPI (Maoist),” the statement said.

The UNLF, which has been demanding a plebiscite under the supervision of the United Nations to resolve the conflict in Manipur, stated that it would continue to mount pressure on India until it accepted the proposal.

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