At least 13 civilians shot dead by army in India’s Nagaland state

Protests after soldiers opened fire on villagers thinking they were ‘militants’ in India’s remote northeast region.

Protesters have burned army vehicles after more than a dozen villagers were shot and killed by soldiers, who thought the villagers were “militants”, in India’s Nagaland state.

Indian security forces opened fire on civilians late on Saturday in India’s remote northeast region, which borders Myanmar, according to local media reports.

“The situation in entire Mon district is very tense right now. We have 13 confirmed deaths which include one labourer from outside the Nagaland state,” said Nagaland police officer Sandeep M Tamgadge.

Nagaland’s chief minister Neiphiu Rio told Reuters news agency a probe will be conducted and punishment meted out to guilty parties in the incident, which he ascribed to intelligence failure.

“The unfortunate incident leading to the killing of civilians at Oting is highly condemnable,” he tweeted.

The incident took place in and around Oting village in Mon district during a counterinsurgency operation conducted by members of the Assam Rifles, a part of Indian security forces deployment in the state, a senior police official based in Nagaland said.

Firing began when a truck carrying 30 or more coal-mine labourers was passing the Assam Rifles camp area, officials told Reuters and The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

“The troopers had intelligence inputs about some militant movement in the area and on seeing the truck they mistook the miners to be rebels and opened fire killing six labourers,” the senior police official told Reuters.

“After the news of firing spread in the village, hundreds of tribal people surrounded the camp. They burned Assam Rifles vehicles and clashed with the troopers using crude weapons,” he said.

Members of the Assam Rifles retaliated, and in the second attack eight more civilians and a security member were among those killed, the official said.

Government forces are battling dozens of ethnic armed groups in India’s remote northeast whose demands range from independent homelands to maximum autonomy within India.

Locals in Nagaland have frequently accused forces of wrongly targeting innocent residents in their counterinsurgency operations against rebel groups.

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