At least 13 killed in armed fighting in India’s ethnic riots-hit Manipur

At least 13 people have been killed in a gunfight between two unknown armed groups in India’s restive Manipur state, a police official said.

Their bodies, with multiple bullet wounds, were found on Monday in a village in the northeastern state’s Tengnoupal district where the official said a “massive” gunfight was reported.

“We are not in a position to immediately identify the dead bodies and cannot say which militant group they belong to,” the official told Reuters news agency by telephone from the state capital, Imphal.

“It could be possible the weapons were looted after they were killed,” the official added.

The killings came seven months after deadly ethnic clashes erupted between members of the majority Meitei group and the minority Kuki-Zo community over sharing government benefits and quotas.

The sporadic violence since May 3 in the remote state has killed at least 180 people and displaced tens of thousands of others.

The turmoil erupted following a court directive instructing the government to contemplate extending the special benefits afforded to the Kuki-Zo people to the Meitei community as well.

The Meiteis are primarily Hindus and live in and around Imphal, while others such as the Kuki-Zo, are predominantly Christian and reside in the adjacent hill districts.

The tribal communities make up approximately 40 percent of the state’s population, which totals 3.5 million.

The tensions in the state bordering Myanmar are seen as a security and political failure by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is the ruling party in the state.

Modi remained silent in public about the Manipur violence for more than two months, until viral videos surfaced in July showed two women paraded naked and assaulted by a mob, sparking national outrage.

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