Mourners defy curfew to bury 14 civilians killed by Indian troops

Hundreds of locals carried the victims' coffins to a public ground to conduct prayers, ignoring a round-the-clock curfew. PHOTO: REUTERS

MON DISTRICT, INDIA (AFP) - Hundreds of mourners defied a curfew on Monday (Dec 6) to bury 14 civilians shot dead by the Indian army during a botched ambush and confrontation with a crowd angered by the attack.

An elite military commando unit shot dead six coal miners returning to their homes in remote north-eastern Nagaland state on Saturday, believing they were targeting insurgents.

Another eight people were killed by the troops when they were confronted by a furious crowd, with a soldier also killed and a military vehicle set alight.

Hundreds of locals carried the victims' coffins to a public ground in Mon district to conduct prayers, ignoring a round-the-clock curfew and Internet blackout imposed after the violence.

The mourners were later joined by Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, who has slammed the military over the killings and ordered an investigation.

At least two other protesters were shot dead and another 10 injured on Sunday after an angry crowd attacked and set alight an army installation in the region.

Street protests across the state were held for a second day on Monday, the morning after a candlelight march for the victims in state capital Kohima.

A police source told AFP that the situation was "tense but under control".

India's army has said the miners were killed after they laid an ambush following "credible intelligence" of an armed insurgent group moving in the area.

Soldiers fired at a vehicle carrying the miners, killing six of them on the spot and leaving two others injured.

Dozens of angry villagers armed with sticks and machetes attacked the troops and forced them to open fire in "self-defence", according to the military's account.

India's Home Minister Amit Shah told Parliament on Monday that the coal miners were killed by troops in a case of mistaken identity.

Nagaland and other states in north-east India, linked to the rest of the country by a narrow land corridor, have seen decades of unrest among ethnic and separatist groups.

The region is home to dozens of tribal groups and small guerrilla armies whose demands range from greater autonomy to secession from India.

Over the years, insurgency has waned, with many groups striking deals with New Delhi for more powers, but a large Indian garrison remains stationed in the region.

Mr Rio demanded New Delhi revoke the Armed Forces Special Powers Act that governs military deployments in his state.

The law gives troops broad protection from prosecution along with the powers to conduct arbitrary arrests, raids and warrantless searches.

"India is the biggest democratic country in the world. This is a draconian law. So it should be removed from our country," said Mr Rio.

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