At least 30 army commandos crossed over into Myanmar and exchanged fire with members of the separatist SS Khaplang faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-K) early Friday morning, officials in Nagaland told HT.
But army sources rejected reports that special forces commandos had entered Myanmar, saying the gunbattle took place inside Indian territory.
In an email to HT, the NSCN-K claimed it killed “five to six” commandos. The army refused to confirm any reports of casualties.
The gunfire began at 3am on Friday and lasted for more than two hours without any casualty on the Indian side, said officials in Nagaland’s Mon district that borders Myanmar.
“The gunfight took place beyond Thorloi, a village in Myanmar two kilometre from the border. They had no casualty and I don’t know if the NSCN-K suffered any loss,” Mon district superintendent of police, Yangba Konyak, said.
He said he saw about 30 commandos when they returned. “This makes a platoon.”
The gunbattle is a reminder of a similar episode last year, when reports emerged that the elite army paratroopers entered Myanmar, raided two insurgent camps and inflicted “significant casualties”.
The counterattack had apparently come in response to the ambush and killing of 18 soldiers in Manipur by the NSCN-K five days before, the worst attack on security forces in two decades. The army denied launching any such operation.
In March last year, the NSCN-K ended a 14-year ceasefire to resume its secessionist war with India and has been involved in a series of attacks in tandem with other militant groups in the Northeast under the banner of ‘United Liberation Front of South East Asia’.
The outfit walked out of the ceasefire pact after it was alleged that the area along Indo-Myanmar border under their control was turning into a ‘safe-zone’ for militants of the Ulfa faction led by Paresh Barua, the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (Songbijit), and armed groups such as the People’s Liberation Army of Manipur.
Police say the NDFB-S was responsible for an attack in Assam’s Kokrajhar town earlier this month that killed 14 people.
In its email to HT, the insurgent group said the Indian army’s 12 Para commandos entered Myanmar and were spotted by the militant group’s men. “Our soldiers manning the forward security post gunned five to six of their men down,” the NSCN-K said.
“The advancing commandos were pinned down and the rest ran helter-skelter. The dispersed commandos tried to regroup but were forced to retreat.”
The NSCN-K further claimed the commandos who survived the “Naga army’s attack”, carried their slain and injured colleagues till the border.
But the Mon district police chief said he did not see the commandos carrying any bodies.