Off-duty soldier abducted from his home, killed in strife-torn Manipur
An off-duty Indian Army soldier was kidnapped by militants from his home in Manipur on Saturday morning and his body was found the following morning with a gunshot wound to his head
An off-duty Indian Army soldier was kidnapped by militants from his home in Manipur on Saturday morning and his body was found the following morning with a gunshot wound to his head, officials aware of the incident said on Sunday, in the latest fatality in a state torn apart by ethnic conflict for over four months now.
The victim was identified as sepoy Serto Thangthang Kom, who was taken at gunpoint from in front of his minor son at their home in Neikanlong, Imphal West. Kom, who was 41 and posted with a Defence Service Corps (DSC) platoon attached with the 302 Company in Leimakhong, was at home on leave.
“Indian Army strongly condemns the killing of Sep Serto Thangthang Kom and stands by his family in these difficult times. Army has rushed a team to assist the bereaved family in every possible way. His ritual rites will be performed as per the family’s wishes,” said an army official, who asked not to be named.
Kom’s murder is the second in a week of a service police or security force officer killed over the ethnic clashes between the Meitei and Kuki communities. His body was found with a single gunshot wound to the head in Khuningthek village under Sangolmang area in Imphal East, 15km from home.
DSC is a corps of the Indian Army that provides protection and security to designated defence installations.
The people behind Kom’s murder have not been identified.
On September 13, sub inspector Ongmang Haokip (35), who was on duty in Churachandpur’s Chingphei outpost, was shot dead by militants. At least 176 people have been killed and around 50,000 have been displaced in the ethnic violence that began on May 3 in Manipur.
Officials aware of the matter said investigations have so far found that the soldier was abducted from his house in Tarung, Neikanlong, at around 10 am on Saturday. “His 10-year-old son, who is the only eyewitness, saw some of the kidnappers. Three militants had come to Kom’s house at that time. At the time of the incident, the soldier and his son were working on the porch, when the three men held Kom at gunpoint and forced him inside a white car. They then took him away,” an official aware of the case details said.
Until Sunday morning, the family had not received any calls from the kidnappers. At around 9.30 am on Sunday, locals and security forces found a body at Sangolmang police station area, at least 15 km from his house.
“His identity was confirmed by his brother and brother-in-law who stated that the soldier had been murdered by a single bullet to his head. The postmortem report is awaited,” the officer added.
Despite calls and text message, there was no response from S Imbocha Singh, superintendent of police (Imphal West) and Shivakanta Singh(Imphal East).
Kom is survived by his wife, daughter and a son.
The Kom community is a minority tribal community in the state.
Earlier this month, Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament and boxing icon MC Mary Kom wrote to Union home minister Amit Shah seeking central forces to be deployed to protect Kom villages in the state from the warring Kuki and Meitei groups.
Kom residents have said that they were subject to suspicion from both the other communities. The boxing champion has also urged Kuki and Meiteis to come together and work towards restoring normalcy.
On Saturday, a mob clashed with security personnel as it demanded the release of five men, who were caught with sophisticated weapons, officials aware of the matter said. The officials said the five men were wearing military fatigues and posing as security personnel when they were caught.
“In response to this arrest, large number of people... tried to storm Porompat PS demanding release of the arrested persons. Joint security forces repelled this attack by firing tear gas...” the Manipur Police posted on X.
There are more than 65 columns (with around 115-120 personnel in each column) of the Indian Army and Assam Rifles posted in Manipur. Over the last four months, prominent Meitei groups, such as COCOMI, have accused Assam Rifles of bias, helping Kuki groups, and have sought their removal from the state.
COCOMI said that on Thursday, a Meitei delegation also met defence minister Rajnath Singh and pressed their demand for the replacement of Assam Rifles with another central agency in the state.
But Kuki groups have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting that the force not be removed because they are working independently unlike the state police.