Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Monday told Lok Sabha that the death of 14 civilians in firing by the Armed Forces in Nagaland was a case of "mistaken identity" and the Army has expressed regret over the incident.
Addressing the Lok Sabha during the Zero Hour, Shah said all agencies have been asked to prevent a repeat of such incidents in the future. "The Government of India expresses regret against this unfortunate incident," the Home Minister said.
Shah told the Lower House that on December 4, the Army had received information on the movement of extremists in Oting village in Mon district. Based on the intel, 21 commandos laid an ambush in the suspected area. "A vehicle reached there...it was signaled to stop but it tried to flee. On suspicion of the vehicle carrying militants, the Army personnel fired upon it," Shah said.
He further mentioned that six out of the eight people in the vehicle died. "It was later found to be a case of mistaken identity," he added.
Soon after, a village search party found their bodies and attacked the soldiers, leading to firing in which seven more civilians died. A soldier was also killed. The villagers also surrounded and attacked the Army unit by setting two vehicles on fire.
Shah said the Army has expressed regret over the incident and is investigating the matter at the highest level. "Action will be taken as per law. The Centre is keeping a close watch over the situation. The situation in Nagaland is tense but is under control," Shah told the House.
Several organisations, opposition MPs, and leaders cutting across party lines condemned the alleged killing of civilians in Mon and demanded an independent inquiry.
A total shutdown has been imposed in the capital Kohima after locals protested against the army personnel.
Meanwhile, State Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio has asked the Centre to repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). He said that this Act has "blackened the image of our country."
The Nagaland government on Monday has granted an ex-gratia of Rs 5 lakh each to the families of the 14 people killed in firing by security forces.