India's Assam state on security alert after rebels kill 40

dpa German Press Agency
Published: Saturday January 6, 2007

New Delhi- India's north-eastern state of Assam was put on
maximum security alert Saturday after separatist rebels shot dead at
least 40 people, officials and reports said.
Many of those killed were migrant workers from the eastern state
of Bihar, the police said.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but the
police say they bear the imprint of the outlawed United Liberation
Front of Assam (ULFA) that has been fighting for a sovereign Assam
since 1979.

The ULFA wants all non-Assamese, specially those speaking Hindi,
to leave the region.

All the attacks took place in remote parts of eastern Assam, the
police said.

At least 16 people were killed when suspected ULFA rebels opened
fire on a group of sleeping brick kiln workers and milkmen in a
remote area of Tinsukia district, about 590 kilometres east of
Assam's main city of Guwahati early Saturday, officials said

The police said at least 10 others were killed in two separate
shootings, one in Tinsukia and the other in adjoining Dibrugarh

In six other separate but seemingly coordinated attacks late
Friday, suspected ULFA rebels gunned down 17 people across Tinsukia,
Dibrugarh and Sivasagar districts. More than 25 people were wounded,
the police said.

The victims were mostly traders and migrant labourers from other
parts of the country.

In yet another incident, a train bound for eastern Dibrugarh town
from the Indian capital New Delhi had a narrow escape when a powerful
bomb exploded on the rail tracks minutes after the train passed,
officials said.

The incident took place in the early hours of Saturday near Diphu,
about 270 kilometres east of Guwahati.

The latest killings are the worst massacre of non-Assamese Indians
by ULFA rebels since more than 100 people were killed in 2000.

"In all the incidents, ULFA trageted Hindi-speaking people, most
of them daily wage earners and petty traders," a police official

"Security forces have been put on high alert following the inhuman
attacks on innocents," Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi was quoted as
saying by IANS news agency.

Assam's top police official RK Mathur said search operations had
been launched to trace those responsible for the attacks. "Most of
them took place in remote areas. Some places are accessible only by
boat and they are all in isolated pockets," he said.

Mathur said there had been no further incidents reported Saturday.

The attacks came days after five senior ULFA leaders were killed
in separate incidents by counter-insurgency forces in the state over
the past week and the arrest of two frontline leaders, Absar
Hazarika, top district official of Tinsukia, said.

The increased violence by the ULFA also follows the publication of
a controversial opinion poll that showed 95 per cent of people in
nine of Assam's 27 districts did not support the ULFA's demand for an
independent Assam.

The three districts where the attacks took place were not included
in the poll which was carried out by Assam Public Works (APW), a body
formed by relatives of ULFA cadres who disagree with the front's
current course.

ULFA chairman Arabindo Rajkhowa rejected the survey and described
the APW as a body comprising "agents of Indian intelligence

The police said the killings were aimed at creating an atmosphere
of fear after the findings of the poll were made public.

More than 20,000 people have been killed in the violent separatist
movement in the state since 1979.

© 2006 - dpa German Press Agency