Militants of the banned People's Liberation Army (PLA) and Manipur Naga People’s Front (MNPF) jointly carried out the deadliest ambush in the northeast in six years, killing an Army Colonel officiating as the commanding officer of the 46 Assam Rifles, his father, wife and their six-year-old son along with four personnel of the paramilitary force near the India-Myanmar border in Churachandpur district.
Col Viplav Tripathi’s convoy, comprising a quick-reaction team of the Assam Rifles, was passing by S Sehken village in Singngat subdivision when an IED blast set them up for a volley of indiscriminate firing from the forested hillside that not only felled the Army officer from Chhattisgarh's Raigarh but also his father, wife Anuja and their son Abir. The four other Assam Rifles personnel killed in the ambush were identified as Suman Swargiari, Khatnei Konyak, RP Meena and Shyamal Das. Four personnel in the convoy were critically injured.
"The blast was targeted at the CO’s vehicle and then the firing started. It was sudden and ferocious," a defence source said. PLA and MNPF issued a statement, claiming responsibility for the killings.
The last such ambush on security forces in the militancy-ravaged region had also taken place in Manipur in 2015, when 18 soldiers were killed in Chandel district.
Colonel Tripathi, on deputation from the Army's Kumaon Regiment, was returning along with his family to Churachandpur from a forward post of the Assam Rifles at Behiang on the India-Myanmar border. He had attended a civic programme there earlier. Churachandpur is the southern extension of the Manipur valley, with the ambush site having ample cover for the attackers to fire at the approaching convoy from camouflaged positions. The thinly populated area is mostly inhabited by the Zomi tribe.