5:48 am - Wednesday November 4, 2015

Army called out as Bodo militants kill 48 in Assam

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Guwahati: National Democratic Front of Boroland (Songbijit faction) militants shot dead at least 48 adivasis, including women and children, at five different places in Assam on Tuesday. Late at night, the Army was called in to maintain law and order in affected areas.

Police said the killings started around 5pm at Maitalubasti in Sonitpur district. Twenty-three bodies were found in the area that is located inside the Pabhoi reserve forest. Minutes after the attacks at Maitalubasti, the militants shot dead three persons at Pakhriguri village in Kokrajhar district in western Assam, police added. The militants also targeted Ultapani village in Kokrajhar district from where six bodies were found.

Two more villages were attacked in Sonitpur district. Ten people were found killed at Phulbari and six at Batasipur. All the five places fall under the jurisdiction of the Bodoland Territorial Autonomous Districts (BTAD). Most of the adivasis living in the region are from Chhota Nagpur Plateau and central India.

Additional DGP (special branch, Assam Police) Pallab Bhattacharya said, “We are still trying to ascertain the number of casualties. The places where the killings took place are remote and close to the Bhutan border,” he said.

On Monday, the NDFB (Songbijit faction) had warned the government of retaliatory attacks if the security forces did not stop operations against its cadres. Bhattacharya said, “We had information that the outfit would carry out retaliatory attacks but it was difficult to pinpoint the locations.”

A source said, “The NDFB (Songbijit faction) might have targeted the adivasis suspecting them passing on information about its cadres to the police.”

The attacks followed less than three hours after chief minister Tarun Gogoi said his government would not go ahead with counter-insurgency operations despite threats from the NDFB (Songbijit faction).

On Sunday, the outfit had lost two of its cadres during a joint operation by police and Army personnel inside the Chirang reserve forest near the Bhutan border. The security personnel had also seized a huge cache of arms and ammunition from the militants.

Tuesday’s attacks come amid preparations for Christmas. A majority of Bodo militants as well as adivasis follow Christianity.

In June too, the NDFB militants had killed more than 40 Bengali-speaking in Baksa district. In 2012, more than 100 people had died and over 4.5 lakh dismissed from their homes following clashes between Bodos and Bengali-speaking Muslims.

The state home department recently declared the BTAD area, comprising Kokrajhar, Baksa, Chirang and Udalguri districts, as an ethnically sensitive area. It said that the region has seen over 588 kidnappings in three years. As many as 437 people have received extortion notes mainly from the NDFB (Songbijit).

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