Three Meitei villagers who were sleeping in their homes were killed by suspected Kuki militants in the wee hours of Saturday at Kwakta Lamkhai Ward No VIII under the jurisdiction of Phougakchao Ikhai police station, Bishnupur district.
Meanwhile, at least five suspected Kuki militants were killed in the retaliatory fire by state forces and armed village volunteers according to reliable sources.
The three Meitei villagers, including a father and a son, were reportedly shot dead in cold blood by Kuki militants who also torched the bed of a victim, following the incident which took place around 3 am Saturday.
As per sources, as many as 15 houses of the Meitei community reside next to Kuki settlements of about eight households, also known as Ukha Tampak located right next to Tiddim road, neighboring a Muslim village called Islamabad Leikai in Kwakta Lamkhai Ward No VIII.
The deceased persons are Yumnam Pishak, 70, and Yumnam Premkumar, 38; the father and the son killed together in the unfortunate incident. The third victim is Yumnam Jiten, 52, son of late Y Ibohal. They all hail from Kwakta Lamkhai Ward No VIII, Bishnupur district. Yumnam Premkumar, a VDF personnel, was posted at Sunusiphai VDF post.
Sources said that the three deceased were reported to be guarding their respective homes while all their other family members have been shifted to relief camps and safer places on the onset of the crisis that had unfolded from May 3, 2023 in Manipur.
The sources said that the father and the son were forced out of their bed to their courtyard and shot dead. Premkumar had several knife injuries on his body. Jiten was allegedly shot on the head beside his bed where Lainingthou Sanamahi (a sacred deity worshiped in every Meitei household) was kept.
Reacting to the reports of the killing, 15 Kuki houses were destroyed and torched down jointly by the Muslims and Meetei people, added the reports.
According to the Meitei villagers of the area, they had tried to build bunkers to create a buffer zone and defend themselves from possible attacks when the conflict erupted. But the bunkers were not set up on the advice of Councilor MD Abo, Kwakta Municipal Council Ward No VIII with the assurance that he will not allow any harm to them.
After May 3, the residents in the Kuki settlement area stayed in their homes for quite a long time but left the place eventually. Local residents said that there have been reports of armed Kuki militants coming back to check on their houses.
Around 6.20 am, a gunfight erupted between state forces, village volunteers and Kuki militants. The Kuki militants attacked from the Pholjang side while the state forces and village volunteers returned fire from the Kwakta Lamkhai Ward No VIII. Three people sustained injuries in the fresh violence that erupted in the area and were rushed to Bishnupur District Hospital for further treatment.
Caught in the crossfire, Muslim villagers of Islamabad Leikai, Kwakta fled from their homes for the first time in three months since the conflict began in the state. The women, children and elderly Muslims fled for their safety, leaving behind their homes and belongings.
Reports added that a bullet proof vehicle, Rakshak of Bishnupur CDO (1) OC Shaktisen sustained damage from bullets and bomb explosions, puncturing both back tyres and destroying front and side glasses.
In retaliation to the killing of three Meiteis by Kuki militants, women from Bishnupur Bazar and Ningthoukhong Bazar blocked roads and restricted the movement of central forces.
Additional state forces led by DIG Range II, Angam Kamei Romanus and CO of 4 IRB RK Shaklemba, arrived at the scene. A minor confrontation occurred as state forces were not able to move forward towards Golthol village as the road was stuck with the vehicles of central forces.
At least two, including a police commando personnel, was injured in the shootout. The commando has been identified as one Paonam Apollo, aged 35 of Kwakeithel posted at Bishnupur while the other injured is Khangenbam Bina Devi, aged 38 of Kumbi KhugaAwang Leikai.
According to sources, police found traces of some persons suspected to be Kuki militants preparing food in one of the houses near the Masjid Islamabad Leikai.
Meanwhile, in view of the prevailing law and order situation in the state, there will be no curfew relaxation in the districts of Imphal East and Imphal West on Sunday (August 6, 2023).
On Saturday, curfew in both the districts were relaxed from 5 am to 6 pm. However, following the incident in Kwakta of Bishnupur district and the repercussion that followed in the two valley districts, curfew relaxation was curtailed and imposed from 10:30 AM onwards.
And to keep the law and order situation in the two districts under controlled, there will be no relaxation of curfew on Sunday, the district administrations stated on Saturday.