Some of the suspects in the murder case of two Manipur students

Imphal/New Delhi:

Four people have been arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the horrific murder case of two students in Manipur in July, whose photo surfaced on social media last week.

The four – two men and two women – and two minors have been flown to Guwahati in Assam. The two minors have been handed over to the child protection officer at Kamrup metro district for their welfare, protection and care, the CBI said in a statement.

The accused have been identified as Paominlun Haokip, Malsawn Haokip, Lhingneichong Baite and Tinneikhol. Lhingneichong Baite was a friend of the girl student who was murdered, people with direct knowledge of the matter said. One of the suspects is allegedly the wife of an insurgent group member based in Churachandpur, sources said without giving further details.

A crack unit of the Manipur Police and the Indian Army in a joint operation captured the suspects from the hill district Churachandpur, 51 km from Imphal, where ethnic violence began on May 3. Several Kuki insurgent groups that have signed the tripartite suspension of operations (SoO) agreement are based in this hill district.

After catching them, the forces drove swiftly to the airport, where a CBI team was waiting for them. The CBI team and the suspects took the last flight out of Imphal around 5:45 pm.

Sources said some people tried to move towards the airport on hearing about the arrests. The one hour till the time the plane took off was “full of tension” as the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) guarding the airport was informed about possible trouble, people with direct knowledge of the matter told NDTV, requesting anonymity. Nothing untoward happened, fortunately, they said.

The two Manipur students who were killed in July

“As the saying goes, one may abscond after committing the crime, but they cannot escape the long hands of the law. We are committed to ensuring maximum punishment, including capital punishment, for the heinous crime they have committed,” Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

Mr Singh told reporters today terrorists from Myanmar and Bangladesh have joined hands with some insurgent groups to exploit the Manipur crisis, and the ongoing violence is between the terrorists and the state.

Yesterday, a terror suspect was arrested from Churachandpur by the National Investigation Agency in a transnational conspiracy case involving terrorist leaders in Bangladesh and Myanmar.

After news of the arrests spread, a large crowd came out on the roads in Churachandpur. The police said the gathering was peaceful.

The photos showing the bodies of the two students who went missing in July emerged on social media on September 26, after which the Manipur government assured swift action.

The CBI has been looking into this case already, though the bodies of the two students – both minors – are yet to be found. Investigators are also looking into allegations of rape before the minor was murdered, sources told NDTV.

The photos show the two students – both 17 years old – sitting at the grassy compound of what appears to be a makeshift jungle camp of an armed group.

The Manipur Police last month appointed a former army special forces soldier to oversee combat operations.

Ethnic violence between the hill-majority Kuki tribes and the valley-majority Meiteis began on May 3, following a protest by the Kukis over the Meiteis’ demand for Scheduled Tribes (ST) status. Over 180 have died and thousands have been internally displaced.

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