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Rise of UNLFW threatens peace in northeast

By K Anurag
June 05, 2015 19:55 IST
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A scene after a military convoy was attacked killing at least 18 army personnel in Manipur on Thursday. Photograph: PTI

The newly-formed common forum of northeast insurgent groups based in Myanmar has posed a renewed threat to security and peace in the troubled region. It is responsible for the two major joint attacks on security forces carried out in the region within a month’s period.

The first attack in Mon district of Nagaland bordering Myanmar on May 3 claimed lives of seven soldiers from the 23 Assam Rifles battalion and one jawan from the 164 Territorial Naga Army Battalion. The National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang was suspected to be involved in the attack. But it turned out to be a joint operation, as a few days later the United Liberation Front of Assam (Independent) claimed its involvement and e-mailed pictures of arms snatched from slain security personnel to the media.

Following Thursday’s attack on the convoy of 6 Dogra Regiment in Chandel district of Manipur hills in which 18 army personnel were killed, three insurgent groups – NSCN-K, Kangla Yawol Kanna Lup and Kangleipak Communist Party -- have claimed responsibility.

An unsigned joint statement of the three outfits said, “A combined team of the elite strike unit of the Naga army, KYKL and KCP assaulted a five-vehicle convoy of the 6th Dogra Regiment on June 4 at Tengnoupal, New Somtal Road under the Chandel district of Manipur and killed 20 personnel (though official figures put the death toll at 18) including one JCO and critically injured more than a dozen soldiers. The joint offensive has been launched in sync with each corresponding assertion for self-determination and sovereignty.”

The attacks on security forces have indicated that the newly-formed joint forum of militants groups called the United Liberation Front of Western South East Asia headed by the NSCN-K leader S S Khaplang as its chairman has facilitated them to strike in coordination against security forces.

The UNLFW came into existence soon after the NSCN-K decided to abrogate a 14-year-old ceasefire with the Indian government on March 27 this year. The UNLFW comprises NSCN-K, ULFA (Independent), the Kamatapur Liberation Organisation and National Democratic Front of Bodoland-Songbijt. The forum was formed by separatist outfits for an effective campaign of independence for the northeast and the contiguous Naga inhabited region in the neighbouring country. It was stated in a release of the forum as reported in the media across the region.

Manipuri insurgents groups -- the People’s Liberation Army, the United National Liberation Front, the People’s Republican Party of Kangleipak, the People’s Republican Party of Kangleipak-Progressive, Kangla Yawol Kanna Lup and a faction of the Kangleipak Communist Party -- also pledged moral support to the forum though initially did not become part of it because of differences over the leadership issue.

All these insurgent groups have set up base in Myanmar and the NSCN-K has played the role of facilitator. “Besides aiming to set up operation coordination under the banner of the UNLFW, these insurgent groups will try to overcome hurdles in procuring arms and weapons by striking coordination,” a senior police official from Assam said.

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