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Drones, Army choppers pressed into service in ethnic violence-hit Manipur

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Army helicopters have been pressed into service for aerial surveillance in ethnic violence-hit Manipur, while the Army, Assam Rifles, and other Central paramilitary forces are on round-the-clock vigil in the trouble-torn districts.

Defence sources said that multiple rounds of aerial surveillance using Cheetah helicopters have already been conducted by the Army since Saturday morning in different parts of Manipur.

"The ongoing crisis in Manipur may create a new security dimension as insurgent groups staying in camps along the India-Myanmar border may prove detrimental to the massive efforts to restore normalcy in the state," said a source.

The issue is being addressed pro-actively by the security forces who are leaving no stone unturned to thwart the nefarious designs, the source said.

"While Assam Rifles is enhancing its deployment on ground zero with round-the-clock vigil and border surveillance, the Army and other security forces are working in tandem to quell the present unrest in Manipur at the earliest," the source said.

A defence spokesman said, "The Indian Air Force ferried additional Army and paramilitary troops from two airfields in Assam employing C17 Globemaster and AN 32 aircraft. Evacuation of civilians of all communities from the affected areas is going on."

According to a top official, at least 20 people have died in Manipur since May 3, while the local media and unconfirmed reports put the toll at 50-55, including women.

Manipur government's newly-appointed security advisor Kuldiep Singh, a former CRPF chief, said that at least 18 to 20 people were killed in the series of ethnic violence in different districts of Manipur.

However, local media quoting hospital sources said that at least 50 to 55 people, including women, have been killed in the attacks and counter attacks by the rival ethnic groups in at least six districts since May 3.

"Over 100 people have been injured in these attacks. More than 500 houses, along with a large number of vehicles, shops and other properties were either burnt down or damaged in these attacks since May 3," Singh told the media in Imphal on Saturday.

He said that 23 police stations in different districts have been identified as most vulnerable and the Army and Central Armed Police Forces were adequately deployed in these areas.

Flag marches by the Army and Assam Rifles are continuing in more than six districts, especially in the most volatile Churachandpur district, Singh said.

In view of the prevailing unrest in Manipur, the Central government has already imposed Article 355 in the state to bring the situation under control.

Article 355 is part of emergency provisions contained in the Constitution that empowers the Centre to take all necessary steps to protect a state against internal disturbances or external aggression.

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