Sunday, December 02, 2007

Eyewitness account of the assassination attempt on the Governor of Goa, on a visit to Nagaland a few days ago

As I have not noticed any media picking up the story of the facts regarding the assassination attempt, here is the account of the ambush by the Officer of Special Duty to the Governor, Mr Zumvu:

Facts about the Ambush on His Excellency SC Jamir, Governor of Goa at Changki village area, Mokokchung, Nagaland on November 24, 2007

1. His Excellency SC Jamir, Governor of Goa reached Mokokchung on November 19, 2007 ton a private visit. After completion of his engagements, as per his schedule, he was to depart Mokokchung on November 24, 2007 to Calcutta via Dimapur by Indian Airlines.

2. From the day His Excellency arrived at Mokokchung, intelligence reports from the Administration as well as well-wishing public informed the Raj Bhawan Officials that insurgents were determined not to let him get out of Mokokchung and that they were planning to lay ambush on His Excellency’s convoy when he travels out of the State. On November 22, 2007, it was learnt from highly placed sources that the Ministry of Home Affairs had sent a red alert to the State Government that miscreants were likely to lay ambush on His Excellency when he travels by road. A security coordination meeting was accordingly called the same morning at the residence of His Excellency which was attended by the Deputy Commissioner, Mokokchung, SP Mokokchung, PSO attached to His Excellency and officials of the Raj Bhawan Goa traveling with the VVIP. In the meeting, His Excellency asked the DC to alert all the GBs of the villages along the Mokokchung-Mariani road and sanitize their respective areas. It was also decided that additional security forces would be requisitioned and that Road Opening Parties would be arranged in all the three exit routes from Mokokchung, namely, NH 61 via Wokha, NH 61 via Tuli and State Highway via Mariani. His Excellency decided to go by the State Highway via Mariani. In addition to the security personnel, two bullet proof ambassador cars were also requisitioned, and the same were provided though not in very good condition.

3. Raj Bhawan officials accompanying His Excellency were in constant touch with the Intelligence personnel as well as villagers. The local functionaries of the NSCN were reported to be unaware of any plans to ambush the VVIP. But at the same time, well wishers conveyed their apprehension that even if militants were to do any mischief, it would be carried out by some special hit teams and that the local functionaries would be kept in the dark. On November 23rd evening, highly placed and reliable sources reported that one self styled Lt Col Hopeson Tangkhul of the NSCN (IM) had arrived in Mokokchung for some undisclosed purpose. In spite of the reports of security threat on His Excellency, it was felt that the factions of the NSCN would not dare to violate the Ceasefire by laying ambush on the visiting Governor. Nevertheless, all necessary security arrangements were made and even the SP and SDO © Mokokchung accompanied the VVIP’s convoy.

4. On November 24th morning, the ADC to the Governor and I, the undersigned approached His Excellency a few minutes before 5.00 a.m. and requested him to sit in a bullet proof car at least till Mariani. However, the request was not heeded and the VVIP decided to travel in his own car. His reasoning was that how he could be so selfish as to travel in a bullet proof car when the security personnel traveling with him were in open vehicles exposed to bullets.

5. At 5.00 a.m. on November 24, His Excellency and the Lady Governor got into the vehicle. The two VIP “dummy” cars, my private car and the pick up vehicle used to transport the kitchen attendants and ration which were parked in the compound of the residence, moved out of the gate. All the other police vehicles were parked outside the compound. However, on the road below the VVIP’s residence, the convoy stopped for a few minutes for the security personnel to arrange the convoy sequence. Till the time the ambush took place when the His Excellency had to be shifted out of the VIP Car, I myself did not know in which car the VVIP was in.

6. At about 6.20 to 6.25 a.m. after crossing Changki village towards Mariani when the convoy slowed down at a landslide/sinkage area, huge explosions rocked the area followed by heavy gun fire. The convoy came to a stop as the commandoes got out of their vehicles and quickly retaliated to the gunshots coming out of the thick foliage above the road. There was a heavy exchange of fire for several minutes, followed by intermittent burst of gun shot from the ambushers whose number or positions were not known. I was asked by the driver and the commandoes standing nearby to move on to the nullah/drainage for protection. There were some freshly unloaded boulders of rocks for road repairs near my vehicle and it was there that I and some drivers and unarmed uniformed attendants took shelter. Lying there in the drain I made phone calls to Raj Bhawan Goa, media persons, police and administrative officers in other districts of Nagaland and Assam informing them of what was taking place at that moment. After a few minutes, the SP Mokokchung came running to where I was taking shelter and asked where and how His Excellency was. I pointed towards the next turning and whispered, for fear of alerting the ambushers about the exact location of the VVIP, that the VVIP was in the next turning. At a time when bullets were flying everywhere, the SP ran over towards the VVIP only with a pistol in his hand without taking cover or shelter and not bothering at all about his own saftey. He went round the turn of the highway towards the VVIP and after a few minutes, he came back to where I was and said His Excellency was calling for me. At the same time, he shouted for the bullet proof car which was a few vehicles away from where we were, to proceed towards the VVIP car. This was after 10 to 15 minutes when the explosions and firing started.

7. By this time, it was obvious that the concentration of gun fire was aimed at the VVIP car and not on any of the other vehicles in the convoy. With extreme precaution and taking shelter of the retaining wall, I approached a few metres to where the VIP car was and saw that the VVIP was being taken into the bullet proof car. From the place where I was taking refuge, I could clearly see that as he was being taken into the BP car, his back was exposed to the ambushers’ gunfire. I noticed that the VIP car was driven to the nullah/drain and the edge of the side of the road provided natural cover to the car and that the bullets from the ambushers were ricocheting away on the tarred road unable to touch the VIP car. But the area in which the BP car was parked and in which the VVIP was taken into, was exposed to the bullets of the ambushers. However, the ring round security personnel provided heavy covering fire while the VVIP was being taken into the BP car and after a few seconds, the VVIP was whisked away.

8. A minute or so after the VVIP was taken away to safety, there was a heavy burst of gun fire again. This was promptly reciprocated by the commandoes who were kneeling by the side of the road exposed to the oncoming gun shots. I could see bullets ricocheting away on the ground kicking up dust and smoke a few inches away from them. It was as if they thought they were immune to bullets. From my position, I could see a few fairly large craters along the drain very close to the stranded VIP car. I was later told by the commandoes that four bombs went off simultaneously next to the VIP Car and that a few 2-inch mortars too exploded in close proximity of the car. The ADC to the Governor who was in the VIP car with the VVIP later told me that while getting out of the car to the BP car, he saw two unexploded mortars not even five feet away from the VIP car. He said he picked up one and threw it away below the road, while the PSO did the same to the other.

9. The rest of the convoy was stranded because the ambushers fired intermittently at us. We could not get out of the place for several minutes but once it was noticed by the sounds of the gun shots that the ambushers were retreating, the rest of the convoy slowly moved out of the ambush site to join up with the VVIP some 15 minutes later during which time/interval/distance, I saw that the nearest ROP personnel were no where near the site of the incident. The two uniformed personnel providing road protection/opening were at least a kilometer or so away from the site and they did not appear to be aware of the ambush.

10. The convoy then proceeded towards Tsutapela Gate, Nagaland where security personnel from Assam Police were also waiting and after a quarter of an hour or so, the convoy proceeded towards Dimapur. DGP Nagaland and Additional DGP received the VVIP at the NH 31 and NH 39 junction in Assam and escorted him till Chumukedima. There were also scores of vehicles belonging to well wishers at the Nagaland Check gate to receive and follow the VVIP back to Dimapur.

11. At Dimapur, I was informed by the Assistant Commandant of the 9 IRB which provided the VVIP security and protection till Dimapur, that the site of the incident was “swept” by his bomb disposal party at 4.30 a.m. that morning. Later in the day, I was informed by police officers that more bombs have been detected and that the whole place was cordoned off. Passengers traveling on that route that morning were stranded for a few hours, and some of them phoned up through mobile phones that they heard a very loud explosion. It was learned that the Assam Rifles party had detected more than ten High Explosive Devices and other assorted explosives buried in four places in the drain underneath boulders. Huge impoverished gelatin bombs around which splitters were tied to have more devastating effects were detected and one was exploded by the Assam Rifles party. It was also informed that had even a single one exploded, it would have devastated several vehicles in the vicinity. It was sheer providence that these explosives could not be detonated by the ambushers.

12. I think it was also the large number of commandoes providing security to His Excellency that deterred the ambushers to come closer to their target. There were around 65 to 70 armed commandoes from the 9 IRB and DEF Kohima and other units at the time of the ambush. At Dimapur, when the bullets were counted, it was found that more than 800 rounds were fired by the commandoes in a time span of 25 to 30 minutes.

13. Recalling about the whole incident, I note with particular concern that the ambushers knew exactly in which car the VVIP was in. After the initial melee and confusion when I felt bullets were flying everywhere – and indeed it was so – I noticed that most of the shots were fired at the VVIP car. The dummy cars, it appears, did not fool the ambushers.

14. It was also a quite a coincidence that no ROP personnel were near the site of the ambush. The two uniformed personnel I saw after the ambush were more than a kilometer away and they did not appear to be aware that the ambush had taken place. Or if they were aware, they were taking it pretty cool.

15. The site was said to be swept by the bomb disposal team at 4.30 a.m. that day, as reported to me by the Assistant Commandant of the 9 IRB. The ambushers must have been in a very large number to have planted not one or two, but eight bombs between 4.30 a.m. and 6.25 a.m.

16. Four non-locals whom I presumed to be labourers engaged in road repairs, were standing by the side of the road barely a hundred metres or so from the site of the ambush. I do not know when or how they got there, or what they were doing there, but investigating agencies might get some inputs from them.

Dated Panaji the 2nd December, 2007 (Sebastian Zumvu)
OSD to Governor
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