IMPHAL: In a tragic incident reported on Monday, at least 13 individuals lost their lives in a clash between two militant groups in Manipur's Tengnoupal district. The confrontation unfolded in Leithu village during the afternoon, when a group of militants en route to Myanmar was ambushed by another insurgent faction wielding influence in the region. While security forces discovered the bodies at the scene, the identities of the deceased remain unconfirmed.
Remarkably, the victims seem to be non-local, raising questions about their origin. Tengnoupal district shares a porous border with Myanmar, underscoring the complexity of the situation. Officials noted the absence of weapons near the bodies, suggesting that the deceased may have arrived from elsewhere before engaging in a fatal firefight with the opposing group.
"The police have reached the spot, and they will investigate the matter," affirmed an official, highlighting the need for a thorough examination of the incident. This development comes at a critical juncture as Manipur has been grappling with ethnic clashes between the Meitei and Kuki communities since May 3, resulting in 182 casualties and rendering around 50,000 people homeless.
Adding to the complexity, this clash occurred a mere four days after the signing of a peace agreement in New Delhi between the Centre, the Manipur government, and the United National Liberation Force (UNLF), the state's oldest militant outfit. This underscores the fragility of peace in the region despite recent diplomatic efforts.
Notably, the Manipur government recently ended a seven-month-long ban on mobile internet services in the state. Although the ban experienced a brief hiatus on September 23, it was reinstated on September 26 to curb the dissemination of inflammatory content on social media. The decision to lift the suspension, with exceptions in specific border areas in certain districts, aimed to alleviate the hardships faced by the general public during the extended ban. However, mobile internet services will continue to be restricted within a 2 km radius along adjoining areas between districts with a history of violence.
As the region grapples with both internal conflicts and external influences, the incident in Tengnoupal serves as a stark reminder of the challenges faced in maintaining peace and stability in Manipur.