NEW DELHI: Protesters have burned army vehicles after dozens of villagers were shot and killed by soldiers, who thought the villagers were “militants”, in India’s Nagaland state.
“Based on a credible intelligence of likely movement of insurgents, a specific operation was planned to be conducted,” the army said in a statement on Sunday. “The incident and its aftermath is deeply regretted. The cause of the unfortunate loss of lives is being investigated at the highest level and appropriate action will be taken as per the course of law.”
Nagaland police officer Sandeep M Tamgadge said that the “situation in entire Mon district is very tense right now” and confirmed 13 deaths.
Nagaland’s chief minister Neiphiu Rio told media, a probe will be conducted and punishment meted out to guilty parties in the incident, which he ascribed to intelligence failure.
The incident took place in and around Oting village in Mon district during a counterinsurgency operation conducted by members of the Assam Rifles, a part of Indian security forces deployment in the state, a senior police official based in Nagaland said.
Firing began when a truck carrying 30 or more coal-mine laborers was passing the Assam Rifles camp area, officials told Reuters and The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
“The troopers had intelligence inputs about some militant movement in the area and on seeing the truck they mistook the miners to be rebels and opened fire killing six laborers,” the senior police official told Reuters.
Members of the Assam Rifles retaliated, and in the second attack eight more civilians and a security member were among those killed, the official said.
Government forces are battling dozens of ethnic armed groups in India’s remote northeast whose demands range from independent homelands to maximum autonomy within India.
Locals in Nagaland have frequently accused forces of wrongly targeting innocent residents in their counterinsurgency operations against rebel groups.