The Saturday ambush on the convoy of 46 Assam Rifles Commandant Viphav Tripathi that killed the officer, his wife and son along with four jawans is the worst attack on security forces the state has seen after the 2015 Paraolon ambush in Chandel that killed 18 army men. Six other jawans were also injured in the attack.
A visit to the ambush site located near Behiang T village in Churachandpur district of Manipur unfolded the level of destruction inflicted by the attack jointly carried out by the PLA and the MNPF.
The scene at the site indicated that at least seven Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) may have been used in the attack, probably to confuse the moving convoy as most of them were planted at the roadside. The firing started presumably from a close range after the IEDs exploded.
There were a total of five vehicles, including the Bolero in which Tripathi was travelling, a pilot vehicle and another escort vehicle. The Bolero was struck with more than 85 bullets while another vehicle received 46 bullets. The pilot vehicle had as many as 10 bullet holes. Grenade launchers were also used with six empty shells being recovered from the site.
The DIG of 27th Sector Brig Ashis Rangan also visited the spot, which was a stone throw away from Behiang T village, on Sunday with other expert teams from the army and took stock of the situation.
The Commander of 27 sector, on being queried about the attack, declined to comment.
Police said one of the escort teams must have retaliated at the attackers, citing the recovery of four magazines empty magazines from the spot. It is believed that they may have inflicted injuries to some UG cadres as there were bloodstains at the spot from where they had fled.
Judging from the damage to the vehicles, the attack mainly came from the right side of the road. However, bullet marks on the windscreen and the backside of the vehicle also indicated that the attackers came out in the open on the road.
The secretary of the village authority of Behiang, T Haukhanmung told the Imphal Free Press that no valley based UG cadres had ever come to their village.
After the AR convoy came on Saturday at around 10 am, they heard a bomb explosion which was followed by indiscriminate firing, he said.
The villagers, fearing that the firing was happening in their village, ran into their garden or hid inside their houses. They appealed to the UG cadres not to repeat such attacks near their village again.
He said that they informed the OC of Behiang Police Station of the attack and later, covered the bodies with traditional shawls.
“The army is good to us and we condemn the attack against them. Although we anticipated a combing operation from the army after the incident, nothing as such happened and we are in no way harassed by them,” he said.
Villagers of S Sehken village, which was located nearby also said they heard the bombing and gunfire.
Fearing of an aftermath and repercussions, the villagers stayed together at the village chief’s house but no operation or harassment by the Army happened, they said. They also said that no valley-based UG cadres came to their village ever.