Are Assam blasts due to split in Bodo militant group? (News Analysis)

November 12th, 2008 - 2:52 pm ICT by IANS  

Guwahati, Nov 12 (IANS) The National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) has been named as one of the two insurgent groups responsible for the Oct 30 Assam serial blasts in which 86 people were killed and 300 injured, a charge its leaders have vehemently denied. Analysts here feel this indicates a split in the outfit into pro and anti-talk factions.The possibility of a split cannot be ruled out because the NDFB has recently started peace talks with the central government, even as Indian intelligence officials say its chief Ranjan Daimary alias D.R. Nabla is still holed up in Bangladesh.

Now the security forces have cordoned off a designated camp of the NDFB located in Assam’s western Baksa district to make sure nobody escapes. Officials say that up to 12 NDFB militants were involved in the blasts.

While talk of a possible NDFB split does the rounds, the agencies investigating the blasts did not help matters by accusing different groups in their immediate aftermath before zeroing in on the current charge - that NDFB carried out the blasts with the help of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA).

The confusion was compounded when the state government said in a statement Tuesday that possible involvement of ‘other organisations’ is under investigation.

Shortly after the blasts in Guwahati and three western districts of Assam. sections in the administration said ‘jehadi forces’ were behind the terror attacks. This theory was reinforced after a previously-unheard-of outfit called the Islamic Security Force (Indian Mujahideen) claimed responsibility for the attacks. The police picked up a youth saying the text message to a local news channel in the name of the ISF (IM) was sent from his cell phone. Nothing has been heard about the ISF (IM) angle since then.

Then, the focus shifted to the ULFA. But, it was thought that the ULFA did not have the expertise to carry out such precision bombings, using such a huge quantity of plasticized RDX-based explosives. The group, however, has carried out RDX-based explosions in the past.

After a week into the probe, the police traced the owners of the three Maruti cars and a motorcycle used in the blasts. They were directly or indirectly linked to the NDFB, on a ceasefire with the government since 2005. Then the question arose: could the NDFB have done it alone or would it have done it at all considering that it has just begun peace talks with New Delhi?

The state government statement Tuesday sought to remove all doubts when it identified the NDFB and the ULFA of carrying out the bomb attacks.

Still, it left a broad gap that needed to be filled when it said the involvement of ‘other organisations’ were under investigation.

Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi lent a new, although not surprising, twist to the tale when he said Tuesday that the masterminds of the blasts were in Bangladesh. Was Gogoi talking about ULFA and NDFB leaders believed to be based in Bangladesh? Was he pointing a finger at the Harkatul-Jehad-al-Islami, the Bangladesh-based terror group?

Noni Gopal Mahanta, who heads the Peace and Conflict Studies Centre at Gauhati University, said: “Profound confusion prevails. Most of the confusion has crept in because too many people in the security establishment have spoken up after the blasts. Some of their analyses were wild.”

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