In this file photo, security forces can be seen in Nagaland Photograph:( PTI )
Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio promised a high-level probe into the incident and appealed to all sections of the society to maintain peace
At least 13 civilians were 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.
One soldier also died in rioting which followed. 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 angry mob soon surrounded army vehicles at the spot and in the ensuing melee a soldier died and at least three vehicles were torched.
Ordering a Court of Inquiry into the incident, Army said one of its personnel was killed and several others were seriously injured. It said that the incident and its aftermath is "deeply regretted" and the unfortunate loss of lives is being investigated at the highest level.
Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio promised a high-level probe into the incident and appealed to all sections of the society to maintain peace.
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.
The situation is under control and police is conducting spot verification, he said.
Official sources said Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Army Chief Gen M M Naravane have been briefed about the incident.
"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.
Rio tweeted "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."
Home Minister Amit Shah too tweeted his anguish and expressed ''deepest condolences to the families of those who have lost their lives. A high-level SIT constituted by the State govt will thoroughly probe this incident to ensure justice to the bereaved families.''
Reacting to the incident, Gandhi tweeted, "This is heart-wrenching. GOI must give a real reply. What exactly is the home ministry doing when neither civilians nor security personnel are safe in our own land?" In protest against the incident, the Eastern Nagaland People's Organisaiton (ENPO) urged the six tribes of the region to withdraw participation from the ongoing Hornbill Festival, which is the state's biggest tourism extravaganza.
"While expressing deep sorrow and sadness over the indiscriminate firing by Indian security force where more than 10 daily wage laborers from Oting village were blatantly killed, the ENPO vehemently condemn the barbaric act of the security force," a release issued the organisation said.
The ENPO asked the six tribes to hoist black flags in their respective Morungs at Hornbill Festival venue Naga Heritage Village in Kisama near the state capital against the incident.
"It has to be understood by all concerned that this order/move is not against the State Govt., but to show resentment against the security forces who have committed this heinous crime, and to show solidarity of the 6 tribes," it said.
Abu Mehta, advisor to the chief minister, said that two minutes' silence will be observed and prayers will be held at Kisama for those killed in the incident.