Manipur CM escapes militant attack

Chief Minister Okram Ibobi today escaped an attack by suspected militants of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in the state’s Thoubal district, even as two security personnel were killed when the militants launched a second attack, this time on the police commando team that pursued the militants from the scene of the first incident. The chief minister was on his way back to Imphal after inspecting a dam site in the Salungpham area in the district.

The two attacks today are being seen as a retaliation against the killing of two PLA leaders, including its central bureau secretary Lalhaba and publicity chief Sanjib, by state police commandos in separate incidents on June 14 and July 8 respectively. “I don’t know if the target of the attack was me or not,” Ibobi said after reaching his home in Imphal today. The militants involved in today’s attacks are suspected to be members of the 101 battalion of the PLA. The police had not made any arrests till the filing of this report.

The militants carried out the first attack--on the police escort party accompanying the chief minister--at Wangjing Bazar, 28 km south of Thoubal at around 11.15 this morning. A police driver sustained bullet injuries even as the chief minister and superintendent of police of the Thoubal district Clay Khongsai escaped unhurt. The attack at Thoubal was carried out by well-armed militants who were waiting in a Tata Sumo near Wangjing Bazar. Two police commandos lost their lives in the second attack that the militants launched, with improvised explosive devices, 2km from the Wangjing Bazar, at Salungpham. Three other policemen were seriously injured in the attack.
A team comprising Manipur Police, Assam Rifles and CRPF personnel led by state police chief S Bimolchandra and additional director general of police, Yumnam Joykumar, have launched a combing operation in the area of today’s attacks, to track down the militants.

By Sobhapati Shamom
Imphal, July 27, 2003