Seven Naga rebels killed in fresh factional fight

June 27th, 2008 - 5:54 pm ICT by IANS  

Dimapur, June 27 (IANS) Seven Naga rebels have been killed and several injured in a fresh gun battle between rival groups in northeastern India’s Nagaland state, the police said Friday. Group clashes between rival Naga rebel factions around Dimapur, Nagaland’s commercial hub, have led to the death of nearly 40 people since May.

“Rebels armed with automatic weapons attacked a camp of a rival group Thursday located close to Dimapur, leading to the death of seven militants and injuries to several others,” Liremo Lotha, Dimapur superintendent of police, told IANS.

Five of those killed have been identified as insurgents belonging to the newly formed National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Unification) or NSCN(U).

“We have not yet ascertained the identity of the other two,” said Lotha.

Thursday’s attack was carried out by rebels belonging to the frontline Isak-Muivah faction of the NSCN or the NSCN-IM.

The NSCN-IM, engaged in peace talks with the central government since 1997 following a ceasefire, has admitted carrying out the attack Thursday.

“All vehicles at the NSCN(U) camp as well as the hutments, except the church, have been set ablaze,” said Vikiye Sumi, a spokesman of the NSCN-IM.

On May 16, 14 NSCN (Khaplang) and NSCN (U) militants were killed by NSCN-IM attackers in a similar fashion. The second major attack was June 4, when 14 NSCN(U) cadres were shot. Both incidents took place near Dimapur.

All the NSCN groups are fighting for an independent Naga homeland comprising the Naga inhabited areas in India’s northeast.

Factional clashes peaked after the formation of the NSCN (Unification) last year after some leaders and members of the Isak-Muivah faction of the NSCN broke away.

Until then, there was just another NSCN faction headed by S.S. Khaplang or the NSCN (K).

Like the Isak-Muivah faction of the NSCN, the NSCN (K) too is on a ceasefire with the Indian government (since 2001) although the latter has not begun peace negotiations with New Delhi.

The NSCN(U) is, however, not on a truce with the authorities.

The central government this month replaced the chairman of the Ceasefire Monitoring Group, sending M. L. Kumawat, special secretary (Home) in the Ministry of Home Affairs, to take up the key assignment.

The latest attack has come even as church leaders are having a meeting in Chiang Mai, Thailand, to try and reconcile the warring Naga rebel factions.

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