Dorment Terror Groups Like UNLF, PLA Becoming Active In Manipur During Ethnic Conflict, Creating Unrest: Report

Over 4,000 guns, including automatic AK assault rifles and MP5 guns, have been stolen along with around 6 lakh bullets that are also understood to have bolstered the antisocial elements in Manipur.

Waepon loot attempt in Manipur

Central security agencies have warned that near-dormant terrorist groups like the United National Liberation Front (UNLF) and People's Liberation Army (PLA) have started to become active in Manipur during the ongoing ethnic conflict and have attempted to stoke tensions, according to a report. 

The report comes days after an Indian Army officer was seriously injured when elements from a mob opened fire at the security personnel. The officer had to be evacuated for treatment by a helicopter. 

While the raging violence has largely subsided in Manipur, sporadic incidents continue to take place. Last week on Thursday-Friday, two civilians were killed and four security personnel, including the Army officer, were injured in incidents involving armed militants. 

Manipur has been in the grips of ethnic violence since May 3 when clashes erupted between the state's Meitei and tribal communities after a tribal rally opposing the proposed scheduled tribe status to Meitis. Since then, over 160 people have been killed and several thousands have been displaced. Houses, places of worship, and government and political offices have come under repeated attacks and a deep sense of distrust has set between the two communities. 

Central security agencies have warned that militant groups like UNLF and PLA have started mingling with mobs during protests to stoke further tensions, reported PTI.

The reprot said that central security agencies believe that such militants were allegedly part of the mob from which gunshots were fired at the injured Army officer, identified as Lieutenant Colonel Raman Tyagi, that left him severely injured. The incident involved a stanfoff of the security personnel with a group of people, including women vigilantes called Meira Paibis who attempted to attack tribals at Molnoi village near Pallel in Tengnoupal district but were stopped by the Army and Assam Rifles, as per PTI.

"The officials said they had been warning for the past few weeks about the resurgence of near dormant banned groups like UNLF, PLA, Kanglei Yawol Kanba Lup (KYKL) and People's Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK) in the state. They said that at present UNLF had a cadre strength of 330 followed by PLA with 300 and KYKL with 25 who were active within the groups of the majority community," reported PTI.

Since the outbreak of ethnic clashes on May 3, thousands of weapons, including automatic rifles, and lakhs of bullets have been stolen from police stations and academies by the various sides and it's understood that this fresh infusion of arms has bolstered the anti-social elements in manipur. The report says that the weapons stolen include .303 rifles, Medium Machine Guns (MMG), AK assault rifles, carbines, Insas Light Machine Guns (LMG), Insas rifles, M-16 and MP5 rifles.

It has also been reported that militant groups have newfound support in various quarters since the beginning of violence in May. 

"The overwhelming support being extended to cadres of these banned organisations was witnessed on June 24, when Army and Assam Rifles, based on specific intelligence, nabbed 12 members of KYKL in East Imphal including self-styled 'Lt Colonel' Moirangthem Tamba alias Uttam. Uttam was one of the masterminds of the ambush on 6 Dogra regiment in 2015 that left 18 army soldiers dead," reported PTI.

The UNLF has in the past been largely involved in extortion whereas the PLA had an aim of an independent Meitei state in Imphal Valley. The KYKL runs on extortion and openly supports other terror groups is considered a mercenary group with no ideology and cadres mainly drawn from criminals and drug addicts, notes PTI.

"The PREPAK, which has been banned by the government for its secessionist ideology of so-called liberation of Manipur and whose funding mainly comes from extortion of businessmen especially pharmacies, indulged mainly in drug trafficking and smuggling," notes PTI, adding that this group is also involved in extortion on behalf of PLA and UNLF and passes the amount after retaining a share.

Besides the automatic guns mentioned above, around 6 lakh bullets have been found missing during the waves of attacks carried out on police and other security officials from May 3 when the ethnic clashes began, reported PTI.

"The officials said around 4,537 arms and 6.32 lakh rounds of ammunition were missing mainly from Manipur Police Training Centre (MTPC) at Pangei in East Imphal, 7th India Reserve battalion and 8th Manipur Rifles, both located at Khabeisoi in Imphal city. According to the officials, out of the stolen weapons, 2,900 fell in the lethal category whereas others comprised teargas and mini flare guns," reported PTI.

The report further said that looted arms and ammunition were mainly with the rioters in the valley, while those in the hills had only 5.31 per cent of such weapons.