Missing Manipur kids ‘join’ separatist group?

July 12th, 2008 - 4:53 pm ICT by IANS  


Imphal, July 12 (IANS) In a startling disclosure, a separatist group in Manipur has claimed that two children who went missing July 6 have voluntary joined their outfit. “The two boys are bent on joining us but we shall not stop them from returning to their families if they want,” Bobby Mangang, commander of the little-known group, the Prepak Cobra Task Force, told a group of journalists who visited the rebel base this week.

Yengkhom Naobi (13) and Angom Langamba (11), missing since July 6, appeared before journalists in Bishenpur district, close to state capital Imphal, and declared they have joined the group on their own. The children are students of Class III and IV.

Rita and Ibeyaima, the mothers of the two children, have appealed to the rebel group to release them even as civil society groups here Saturday joined hands to urge the militants not to set a bad precedent by keeping children and free them at the earliest.

The children were paraded before the media soon after their mothers had told the media that they were in the custody of the Task Force.

The police have meanwhile arrested two people suspected to have been involved in the disappearance of the two boys.

Security analysts in the region have expressed surprise over this incident.

“This looks like the case of a militant group recruiting child soldiers. This is a new dimension to insurgency in the region and has confirmed the presence of child soldiers in militant outfits in the area,” said Wasbir Hussain, director of the Guwahati-based Centre for Development and Peace Studies.

The mothers are distressed with the rebel commander saying the boys would be sent to their undisclosed general headquarters for training if they do not want to return home.

“Come back, my son,” Ibeyaima wailed before journalists.

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