At least 11 civilians have been gunned down by security forces in Nagaland's Mon district, police said on Sunday, adding that it is investigating whether the incident was a case of mistaken identity. The exact number of fatalities, however, is yet to be ascertained as 11 people died on the spot, and several others succumbed to their injuries in hospitals in neighbouring Assam, a police officer said.
The incident took place between Oting and Tiru villages when some daily-wage labourers were returning home in a pick-up van from a coal mine on Saturday evening, the police officer said.
The vehicle was allegedly fired upon by Army personnel, who were conducting an operation in the area after receiving inputs on the movement of militants of Yung Aung faction of proscribed outfit NSCN (K), he said. An investigation is underway to ascertain whether the incident was a case of mistaken identity, the officer said. Mon shares a porous international border with Myanmar, where the Yung Aung faction of NSCN (K) is based.
Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio promised a high-level probe into the incident and appealed to all sections of the society to maintain peace.
"The unfortunate incident leading to killing of civilians at Oting, Mon is highly condemnable. Condolences to the bereaved families & speedy recovery of those injured. High level SIT will investigate & justice delivered as per the law of the land. Appeal for peace from all sections," he tweeted.
The Army said that one of its personnel was killed and several others were injured in the incident. It said that the incident and its aftermath is "deeply regretted" and the unfortunate loss of lives is being investigated at the highest level. The Army on Sunday, December 5, ordered a Court of Inquiry into the killing.
"Based on credible intelligence of likely movement of insurgents, a specific operation was planned to be conducted in the area of Tiru, Mon District, Nagaland. The incident and its aftermath are 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," a statement issued by the headquarters of the Army's 3 Corps said.
"The security forces have suffered severe injuries in the incident including one soldier who succumbed to the injuries," it added.