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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Heavy fighting in Manipur: One commando wounded

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

Guwahati, April 5, IRNA
Indian soldiers and separatists were Tuesday locked in heavy fighting in the restive northeastern state of Manipur leaving at least one paramilitary commando wounded, officials said.

A police spokesman said fighting between a group of heavily armed militants and paramilitary soldiers broke out around 9 a.m. in the foothills of Baruni, 15 kilometers east of Manipur's state capital Imphal.

"The battle is still on five hours after it began with the militants using automatic weapons to attack our commandos," Manipur's Inspector General of Police R. Baral told IRNA by telephone from Imphal.

"One of our boys received bullet injuries in his leg." There was no immediate confirmation on any casualties on the militant's side.

An estimated 500 soldiers were clashing with the rebels in an area that is thickly wooded.

Baral said the identity of the militants were yet to be ascertained. "We believe the militants could either belong to the Liberation Army (PLA) or the United National Liberation Front (UNLF)," he said.

"We are sending additional reinforcements to take on the rebels who are fighting from an advantageous location."
Both the PLA and the UNLF are outlawed rebel armies fighting for independent homelands in Manipur.

There are at least 19 militant groups active in Manipur, which borders Myanmar, with demands ranging from secession to greater autonomy and the right to self-determination.

Manipur as one of seven states in India's northeast which is a hotbed of ethnic and tribal groups.

The rebels say they are trying to protect their ethnic identities and accuse New Delhi of plundering resources from the region, which is rich in minerals, tea, timber, and oil.

The Indian army in October launched a massive counter-insurgency operation in Manipur killing at least 40 militants and capturing close to a hundred rebels in a three-month-long offensive.

More than 10,000 people have lost their lives to insurgency in Manipur during the past two decades.

::IRNA No.064 05/04/2005 18:27 --End

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