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18 April 2024

Rebels shoot dead five in Indian election violence


Separatist rebels shot dead five people at a polling station in India's remote northeastern state of Manipur during local elections on Saturday, police said.

The heavily armed rebels killed three polling station officials and two others as they sprayed the station with bullets in Thangpi, a village south of the state capital Imphal, authorities said.

"The militants opened random fire at the voting centre, killing three polling centre officials, a paramilitary trooper and a civilian," police chief Priya Singh told AFP.

Two others were hurt in the attack, Singh said, adding the militants fled the scene.

The attack came as heavy security was in place across the impoverished state of around 2.7 million people in an attempt to thwart militant attacks during elections for a new legislative assembly.

The rebels who staged the attack were believed to be from the separatist National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN), police said, but added that no group has yet claimed responsibility.

There were five explosions in the run-up to the polls in the insurgency-hit state in which two people were killed and about a dozen injured, police said.

The voting in Manipur kicked off a string of five state assembly elections across the country that are seen as a test of popularity for the embattled national Congress government which began a second term in office in 2009.

At least 30 rebel groups have been waging violent campaigns for decades in highly militarised Manipur that have claimed thousands of lives.

At least seven influential militant groups had called for a boycott of the elections in Manipur in which the Congress party, which heads the national ruling coalition, is expected to be returned to power.

Voting in the states of Manipur, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab and Goa is being staggered throughout February and early March with the results to be announced on March 6.

India has been wracked by separatist conflicts since its independence in 1947, with deadly insurgencies in the northeast, which borders Bangladesh, China and Myanmar, as well as in its northwestern Kashmir region.