Gunmen ambush minister's security team in India's Manipur state, 2 wounded

By Tora Agarwala

GUWAHATI, India (Reuters) - Armed men ambushed a convoy carrying the security team of the chief minister of India's troubled northeastern state of Manipur on Monday, wounding two people, but the leader was not with them at the time, officials said.

Fighting between Manipur's majority Meitei and minority Kuki communities over sharing economic benefits and quotas given to the latter has killed at least 220 people and displaced 60,000 in the last year, with sporadic clashes continuing.

Chief Minister N. Biren Singh was due to visit the state's Jiribam region on Tuesday, after violence flared there following the discovery of the body of a 59-year-old Meitei man last week.

The security team attacked on Monday was going to make "arrangements and checks" for his visit, officials said.

Attackers opened fire on one vehicle in the convoy, "leading to a firefight," a security officer said on condition of anonymity.

"The assailants will be brought to justice," Singh wrote on X.

Houses in the region, two police outposts and a forest department office were torched by "unknown miscreants" following the death of the Meitei man, police said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party-led alliance lost both seats in Manipur to the main opposition Congress in recent national elections - the first polls since violence began in the state.

Singh still runs the state's local government for the BJP.

"In the last year, due to the complexity of the violence, neither the state nor central government has been able to take strong actions against the groups on both sides," he told the Indian Express newspaper on Sunday.

"This has led to dissatisfaction amongst the valley people," he said.

The state of 3.2 million people is divided into two enclaves - a valley controlled by the Meiteis and the Kuki-dominated hills, separated by a stretch of "no man's land" monitored by federal paramilitary forces.

Modi was sworn in as India's prime minister on Sunday, making him only the second person to hold the office for three consecutive terms.

Overall, his BJP lost its outright majority. It will now have to rely on regional parties for support, Modi's first time at the head of a coalition government.

(Writing by Sakshi Dayal; Editing by YP Rajesh and Andrew Heavens)