Police fear Manipur groups trying to acquire drones

The seizure of drone parts from couriers linked to both Kuki-Zo and Meitei groups in Assam has led to the apprehension

Updated - June 24, 2024 12:37 am IST

Published - June 23, 2024 04:18 pm IST - GUWAHATI

Photo used for representation purpose only.

Photo used for representation purpose only. | Photo Credit: The Hindu

GUWAHATI

The seizure of 10 intelligent flight batteries from a Manipur-based man in a vehicle at a toll gate about 30 km east of Guwahati on June 14 warned the Assam Police of “something brewing” in the ethnic conflict-scarred State bordering civil war-torn Myanmar.

The suspicion was strengthened when, a day later, another person was caught from Guwahati’s Rupnagar area carrying drone parts on a two-wheeler.

If 27-year-old Khaigoulen Kipgen of Gamngai village in Manipur’s Kangpokpi district, apprehended at the Sonapur toll gate, was found to have links with Kuki-Zo extremist groups, police said the parts seized from Sanjib Kumar Mishra in Guwahati were destined for Meitei outfits involved in the conflict.

“These seizures following reliable input about the unauthorised transportation of drones and related equipment for armed groups on either side of the ethnic divide in Manipur could be the tip of the iceberg,” an Assam Police officer of the Inspector General rank said.

He did not rule out the possibility of intelligent flight batteries and drone parts slipping through checkpoints on the arterial National Highway 27 leading to Manipur via Nagaland, and an alternative route from Silchar in southern Assam’s Barak Valley.

A few days ago, Lieutenant General Pradeep Chandran Nair, the Director-General of the paramilitary Assam Rifles, said that some 5,400 refugees from Myanmar in Manipur’s Kamjong district feared aerial bombardment and attacks.

Armed forces officials posted in the conflict zones believe drones could be used by the warring groups for “aerial” attacks, particularly after the seizures in Assam.

Drones are increasingly being used to drop bombs or fire missiles in countries west of India, and by Russia and Ukraine against each other.

“We have no reports of drones having been used in the ethnic battle between the Kuki-Zo and Meitei people in Manipur, but their visibility is all across Manipur of late. How many are in operation and for what purpose is anybody’s guess, although these could be used for surveillance for the time being,” an Army officer below the rank of Brigadier said.

The foothills on the periphery of Imphal Valley almost at the centre of Manipur’s map are considered most vulnerable to drone attacks because of corrugated territory allowing the flying gadgets to “peep and fire” from the top of the mounds or trees.

Acquiring an assortment of firearms, explosives, and shoulder-fired missiles from weapons dealers in Myanmar has been fairly easy for extremist groups in the northeast over the past six decades. The looting of 5,600 firearms and 6.5 lakh rounds of ammunition from the Manipur Police armoury during the initial days of the conflict in 2023 indicated similar ease on the Indian side of the 1,643 km border with Myanmar.

A year after the conflict, the Manipur police recovered 1,757 of these looted firearms.

Despite reports of extremists equipping themselves with weapons beyond the conventional guns and grenades, Manipur Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren Singh pinned hopes on the ‘Narendra Modi 3.0’ government to resolve the conflict in two-three months.

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