Three soldiers were killed and at least four others were injured as suspected United Liberation Front of Assam and National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang) militants ambushed an Army convoy in Pengri in Assam’s Tinsukia district on Saturday. The soldiers, who belonged to the 15 Kumaon Regiment, died in an improvised explosive device blast. The attack triggered an encounter between the security forces and militants.

The incident took place around 5.30 am when the soldiers were heading towards Digboi in a jeep and a truck. While the IED blast threw the truck off the road, there were multiple bullet marks on the jeep. Tinsukia Superintendent of Police Mugdhajyoti Dev Mahanta told The Indian Express, “There must have been at least 15 militants in the group that fired from inside the Upper Dehing reserved forest.”

The injured jawans were airlifted and admitted to a hospital. The Army has cordoned off the forest area in Tinsukia and has launched a search operation, reported dna.

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal condemned the attack and ordered the security forces to launch an operation against the militants. “Nobody should be spared. This is an act of cowardice,” he said, adding that his government “will take firm action against terrorism”.

Union Home Affairs Minister Rajnath Singh, who was apprised of the situation after the blast, said he was “deeply anguished to learn of the death of Army soldiers” and that the ministry was “closely monitoring the situation”.

This is the first major attack by militants since the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government took charge in Assam in May. The ULFA is a separatist outfit in Assam that was banned in 1990. The incident comes as Lakhimpur parliamentary constituency went to polls, along with the Baithalangso seat. Lakhimpur was vacated by current Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal while Baithalangso MLA Mansing Rongpi had switched from Congress to BJP this year.