20 killed in NE violence, Nagaland and Assam tied in factional war

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Dimapur, May 16 (UNI) Factional clashes beteen rival NSCN millitants resulted in more bloodshed as the death toll rose to 20, adding to the already existing militant mayhem in the northeastern region of Dimapur in Nagaland and North Cachar Hills of Assam today.

While in the Dimapur region factional feud is raging between Naga militants, in adjacent North Cachar Hills the radical Black Widow insurgents continued their unchallenged writ over the mountainous district for the third consecutive day, forceably shutting down railway services in the district.

Unprecedented violence had been reported from Dimapur town, the commercial hub of Nagaland since this afternoon as the ongoing clashes between the Tangkhul dominated NSCN(IM) and Sema dominated NSCN(Unification) turned into a full scale battle with both sides firing upon each other.

SP L Lotha said that till 1800 hours, 20 people were dead in Dimapur town, of which 14 NSCN(U) militants were killed by NSCN(IM), while five civilians were killed in collateral violence.

Former Chief Minister and Congress MLA K L Chishi from Dimapur informed that death toll may be more since no one dared to venture out amidst heavy gunfire continuing in at least six different places.

The police and paramilitary forces have retreated for a ring side view, as rival factions of NSCN were openly brandishing arms and fighting each other.

Incidently, clashes broke out barely 48 hours after the visit of Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil.

Condemning the incident at Kohima, the Opposition leader I Imkong said that it would soon turn into ethnic clashes. On the ground it had actually started and it became Tangkhuls versus others in Dimapur.

The Tangkhul Nagas are from Manipur and they are dominating the NSCN(IM), who on the other hand are negotiating with the Centre for past ten years.

The Tangkkhul domination was challenged by NSCN(U), who want to bring all the Nagas in Nagaland under one banner.

''The incident took place in Seitherkina village and in all 14 rebels have been killed,'' said the Dimapur SP.

He informed that the situation was tense and his forces were constantly patrolling the region.

Army sources said that a bomb disposal squad had been deployed in Sumukedeima to remove bombs planted by both the factions.

Meanwhile, the Unification side addressed the media and vowed to uproot the NSCN(IM), which has been maintaining a strong hold in the Dimapur area.

Meanwhile, in North Cachar Hills district of Assam, one person was killed at Halfong town today taking the total death toll in the area to 36. While the NF railway was not only suspended, the entire railway staff evacuated between Lumding and Harangajao section.

''The situation is very tense and we are doing everything possible to bring the situation under control,'' said the NC Hills deputy commissioner Anil Barua. The district has virtually come a halt with nor al life completely paralyzed.

According to district police sources, president of the apex body of the Blate community R T Roiath was killed by unidentified militants on the outskirts of Haflong town this morning.

Meanwhile, the NF Railway, unable to tackle the repeated attacks on railway personnel, has evacuated the entire staff and their families between Lumding and Harangajao stations.

There are 21 railway stations between these two stations and according to the NF Railway spokesman approximately 170 families have been evacuated by two special trains yesterday.

They are now in makeshift camps of Lumding as the railway service has completely been suspended. There is no railway service to Silchar and Agartala as it has been suspended indefinitely, said the spokesman.

The railway gauge conversion work was already suspended as all labourers as well as technicians, operators and engineers of the contractors fled.

Similarly, the National Highway Authority of India(NHAI) workers and engineers, engaged in the construction of the East West corridor, have also fled, informed the NHAI officials from Lumding base.

The Black Widow militants, determined to avenge the death of 12 of their colleague at the hand of army last week, as well non-recognition to their three month long unilateral ceasefire, have vowed to carry on with violent activities.

UNI MT LL DB2055

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