Armed miscreants impersonating security officials are threatening residents of Manipur with extortion demands and hampering peace restoration efforts, a state government official said on Tuesday, reported PTI.

“We have information that such miscreants masquerading as police commandos are roaming around,” Additional Secretary (Home) Maharabam Pradip Singh said at a press conference. “These acts, including demands for extortion and threats, have hampered the efforts that the police have been genuinely making.”

He added that the state government has received reports from different Valley districts that there has been a surge in complaints related to extortion and threats.

Several traders and businessmen in the state have complained against the extortion demands of the armed miscreants. “It is impossible to meet the demands ranging from Rs five to Rs 10 lakhs for different outfits,” an unidentified businessman told the Economic Times.

Another unidentified trader in Thoubal told the newspaper that curfews and violence since May 3 has significantly reduced business activity, and in such situations, it is impossible to comply with such demands.

“Cadres approach us with arms in shops and godowns,” the trader said. “Even grenades are planted when the extortion is not complied. At times the militants come in the fatigues of security forces. Even the traders outside Manipur are not keen to do business with us as there is huge uncertainty on the law-and-order front.”

On Tuesday, a 48-hour bandh also came into effect in the Imphal Valley as local groups demanded the release of five men who were arrested on September 16 for carrying firearms and wearing camouflage uniforms, reported The Indian Express.

The five men were found in possession of an INSAS rifle, a self-loading rifle, two 0.303 rifles and rounds of ammunition, reported the newspaper.

They had been booked under multiple sections of the Indian Penal Code, the Arms Act, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act as well as the Official Secrets Act for the misuse of official uniform.

Large number of people had come out to protest against the arrest on September 16. They even tried to storm Porompat Police station, demanding release of the five men, reported the Economic Times.

On Monday as well, groups of Meitei women or the Meira Paibis had blocked several roads at Khurai and Kongba in Imphal East district, Kakwa in Imphal West district, Nambol in Bishnupur district and parts of Thoubal district, reported The Indian Express.

“District police and security forces fired tear gas shells to disperse the crowds and remove road blockades at various places,” the police said.

Over 200 people have been killed and nearly 60,000 persons have been forced to flee their homes in the ethnic violence between the Kukis and the Meities since May 3. Manipur has also reported cases of rape and murder, and looting of police armoury despite the heavy presence of central security forces.