Five paramilitary troopers and four tribal separatists were killed and at least a dozen wounded in two separate attacks in the restive northeastern states of Manipur and Nagaland, officials said on Thursday.
A police spokesman said heavily armed militants of the People's Revolutionary Army of Kangleipak (PREPAK) on Wednesday ambushed a three-vehicle convoy of the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) near village Behang in Manipur's Senapati district, 30 km from state capital Imphal.
"The rebels, hiding on a hilltop, fired indiscriminately on the convoy killing four troopers on the spot and wounded 11 others," a senior police official said.
One of the injured CRPF troopers later died in hospital.
"The convoy was on its way to a nearby area for a routine patrol when they were ambushed. Our boys could not retaliate as they were caught unawares with the terrain hilly and the militants located on an advantageous position firing from a hillock," CRPF inspector general SK Jain said.
The PREPAK, a rebel group fighting for an independent homeland for the majority Metei community, claimed responsibility for the attack.
"Our armed wing, the Red Army, planned and executed the attack," a rebel spokesman told local newspapers by telephone.
No reasons were given for the attack, but police says the rebel group was trying to make its presence felt ahead of its foundation day anniversary on October 9.
There are more than 19 militant groups active in Manipur, bordering Myanmar, with demands ranging from secession to greater autonomy.
In the adjoining Nagaland state, four cadres of the Isak-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) were killed and two wounded in an attack Wednesday by its rival faction in the heart of state capital Kohima.
Police said heavily armed militants of the S.S. Khaplang faction of the NSCN ambushed a jeep carrying cadres of the rival group.
"There was heavy firing resulting in the death of four NSCN-IM cadres. Two civilians were wounded in the attack," a police official said.
The two NSCN factions are engaged in a bitter factional fight over territorial supremacy in Nagaland with violent clashes between both the groups claiming an estimated 200 lives in the past five years. Both the NSCN factions are currently operating a ceasefire with the Indian government although formal peace talks with between the NSCN-K and New Delhi was yet to begin. There have been at least 50 rounds of talks between the NSCN-IM and government negotiators. Both the groups are fighting for an independent homeland for the tribal Nagas.