New Delhi, Dec 5 (EFE).- Several civilians have died in the volatile northeast of India after security forces allegedly opened fire on them during an ambush laid for suspected militants in a village near the border with Myanmar, sparking deadly protests in the region.
The Indian Army “deeply regretted” the killings in the incident and its aftermath, but did not specify the casualty figures or details on how the mayhem took place.
Indian broadcaster NDTV, quoting unnamed police sources, said the security forces had laid an ambush for insurgents near Oting village in Mon district of Nagaland on Saturday afternoon.
The forces opened fire on a vehicle and killed eight villagers in the truck, apparently suspecting them to be militants.
The killings sparked angry street protests and incidents of arson.
Security forces then allegedly opened fire in “self defense” to resist the violent mob, some of whom torched three army vehicles.
Five protesters were killed and six injured in the firing by the security forces, said the broadcaster, citing police sources.
A soldier also died, taking the death toll to 14.
Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio ordered a probe into the killings.
“The unfortunate incident leading to (the) killing of civilians at Oting, Mon is highly condemnable,” Rio said.
He said a “high-level” special investigation team would probe the incident.
The Indian Army, in a statement, confirmed that one of its soldiers had died, and an unspecified number of troops “suffered severe injuries” during the protests.
It said soldiers launched a specific operation after “credible intelligence of (a) likely movement of insurgents.”
“The incident and its aftermath is deeply regretted. The cause of the unfortunate loss of lives is being investigated at the highest-level.”
Union Home Minister Amit Shah said he was “anguished over an unfortunate incident in Nagaland.”
Shah also promised a thorough probe by a high-level investigating team “to ensure justice.”
The restive northeast of India, connected with the mainland by a strategically-important and highly-sensitive narrow corridor called chicken neck.
The region, spread over seven sister states, including Nagaland, has been battling decades of conflict as several ethnic and separatist groups demand greater autonomy or secession from India.
The conflict has somewhat eased in the past years, but the Indian Army remains stationed in barracks in urban and rural areas of the region.
India alleges militant leaders hide in the thickly-forested region that includes neighboring Myanmar. EFE