At least six Manipur Rifles troopers and the driver of an Independent MLA from Phungyar were killed and some others injured in an ambush carried out by suspected militants near Reha village in Imphal East district on Friday.

The legislator, Wungnaoshang Keishing, escaped with hand injuries. However, the condition of some of the wounded troopers, who were rushed to Imphal, is said to be critical.

A police spokesperson said no weapon had been snatched from the dead and injured troopers.

Official reports said Mr. Keishing, along with other MLAs, was attending a HIV awareness campaign at Reha, organised by the Manipur Legislative Forum, but as he had some urgent work back home he left the venue before the conclusion of the programme.

In the ambush that followed, his driver and the six troopers, who belong to 2 and 6 Manipur Rifles, died on the spot. Some of the bodies were found lying scattered amid bushes.

A police source said there was no indication so far of which proscribed underground organisation had carried out the ambuscade using highly sophisticated weapons.

Additional police and security forces have rushed to the scene but it is feared that the militants escaped into forests and mountains. The police suspect the involvement of some non-tribal underground outfits.

Mr. Keishing, a Tangkhul tribal, who has been elected twice from Phungyar, has no apparent enemy.

He, however, drew flak recently when he formed the Phungyar District Demand Committee to upgrade the Phungyar sub-division into a full-fledged district.

Mr. Keishing says the sub-division is backward and there were many, including his parents, who never visited the State capital in their lifetime for lack of access.

However, the United Naga Council, an organisation of Naga tribals, objected to his move. Mr. Keishing hit back, saying it was none of the business of the UNC, once his mentor, and pointed out upgrading the Phungyar sub-division was not against the Naga unification campaign.