Militants armed with advanced weapons ambushed an Army convoy in Manipur's Chandel district bordering Myanmar on Thursday morning, killing at least 20 soldiers and wounding over a dozen others, in one of the deadliest attacks in recent times.
The incident, the worst attack on the Indian Army in the past 16 years, took place at around 8:30 am on the Tengnoupal-New Samtal road.
Sources said a team of 6 Dogra Regiment was on a routine road opening patrol (ROP) along Moltuk village, around 110 km south of the state capital, Imphal, when unidentified insurgents attacked the group with rocket-propelled grenades.
The attackers are believed to have come from Myanmar and fled across the border after the incident, source said.
An army spokesman said that the militants fired rocket-propelled grenades at the four-vehicle convoy when it reached a place between Paraolon and Charong villages near Motul.
The dead included 1 junior commissioned officer, 7 other ranks, 1 signal constable, 1 army service corps driver.
Insurgent groups NSCN (K) and Ulfa have claimed responsibility for the attack, which is suspected to be a retaliation against the alleged killing of a local woman by soldiers this week following which the district observed a complete shutdown on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned the attack in Manipur. "Today's mindless attack in Manipur is very distressing. I bow to each and every soldier who has sacrificed his life for the Nation", the prime minister said.
Defence minister Manohar Parrikar condemned the attack and assured that those who committed the cowardly act will be brought to book.
Parrikar conveyed his deepest condolence to bereaved families of the brave Army men who lost their lives and said, "Army will continue to work towards bringing peace and normalcy to the state of Manipur."
Home minister Rajnath Singh, defence minister Manohar Parrikar, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Army Chief Dalbir Singh are meeting at the MHA to discuss the situations arising post the attack.
The injured soldiers were air-lifted by the Army for treatment even as the reinforcement party of the security forces rushed to the spot for combing operation to nab the militants.
The ambush comes close on the heels of lifting of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in neighbouring Tripura.
The Tripura government on Wednesday last decided to withdraw the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), after it was enforced 18 years ago, in view of a significant improvement in the law and order situation. AFSPA was enforced in Tripura in 1997.