Army called out after NDFB mows down 12 Assam villagers (Lead)

October 5th, 2009 - 5:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Guwahati, Oct 5 (IANS) The army was called out in Assam’s violence-hit Sonitpur district Monday after tribal separatists attacked a village and gunned down 12 people, officials said.
Twelve locals were massacred and 13 wounded when heavily armed militants of the outlawed National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) late Sunday attacked village Bhimajuli in Sonitpur district, about 240 km north of Assam’s main city of Guwahati.

Four women and five children were among those killed when the group of about eight to 10 NDFB militants used automatic weapons and opened indiscriminate fire on villagers. Ten people were killed on the spot and two of the 15 injured died at the hospital Monday.

On Monday, angry villagers armed with bows and arrows, machetes and spears, roamed the area threatening to attack homes of tribal Bodos.

An Assam government spokesperson said army soldiers were deployed to assist police and civil authorities to quell the backlash by violent mobs.

“The situation is tense and hence we decided to take the help of the army in restoring peace and calm in the area,” Himanta Biswa Sarma, Assam health minister and government spokesperson, told IANS.

Sarma and three more ministers are camping in the violence-hit area to prevent any backlash by locals.

“Of the 13 injured, at least four are said to be critical,” the minister said.

The villagers who were targeted by the NDFB, fighting for an independent homeland for the Bodo tribe, were a mix of tea plantation workers, people of Nepali origin now settled for decades in Assam, besides indigenous Assamese citizens.

“Inordinate delay by the police to reach the site of the massacre led to a number of people succumbing to their injuries. The militants were at our village for close to an hour and despite the police being informed of the attack, they failed to arrive in time,” Subhas Chetri, one of the first to have informed the police, said.

Chetri suffered bullet injuries in his legs.

“The NDFB probably attacked the village after the locals refused to pay extortion money. The militants had served extortion demands to many locals in the area,” Assam Fisheries Minister Nurzamal Sarkar said.

Sarkar represents the area in the assembly.

A faction of the NDFB is operating a ceasefire with New Delhi, although a group led by guerrilla leader D.R. Nabla is still underground and believed to have carried out Sunday’s attack.

The Nabla-led NDFB is blamed for the Oct 30 serial blasts in Assam that killed about 100 people.

More than 10,000 people have lost their lives to insurgency in Assam during the past two decades.

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