Assam combating terror with World War I firearms

December 5th, 2008 - 3:01 pm ICT by IANS  

Guwahati, Dec 5 (IANS) The wave of terror bombings in Assam has exposed how poorly equipped the state police force is - with World War I era firearms, defective bulletproof vests and insufficient numbers - to deal with heavily armed terrorists, say experts.While 10 terrorists held Mumbai to ransom for more than 60 hours last week, another band of militants in Assam wreaked havoc on Oct 30, triggering serial explosions killing 95 people and wounding 300.

This is the new face of terror - heavily armed with sophisticated weapons, explosives, and modern gadgets. But, compared to the terrorists, police are almost defenceless.

“This is a pathetic situation where terrorists use the most advanced weapons, while our police force continues to fight with .303 rifles similar to the Lee Enfield weapons used by the British troops during World War I,” former Assam police chief Nishinath Changkakoty told IANS.

Even today, police in Assam wear plastic helmets and body protectors designed for sticks and stones, rather than bullets as they fight terrorists armed with AK-47 rifles, pistols, grenades and RDX.

“We need to arm our policemen with the latest AK-series assault rifles to combat terrorists, especially in view of the growing urban terror attacks seen in Assam and other places,” Changkakoty said.

The abysmal state of police equipment and lack of training helps to explain how terrorists managed to target Assam on Oct 30 and, more recently, on Tuesday when they bombed a train in eastern Assam’s Diphu railway station killing three people and wounding 30 more.

Apart from equipping the police force with modern weapons and protective clothing, there is also need for imparting training on handling and identifying explosives.

“Militants here in Assam are now using all forms of explosives like RDX, besides using sophisticated devices to trigger blasts. There is definitely a need for the Assam police to get specialised trainings on explosives,” Padmapani, joint director of the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) in Guwahati, said.

“FSL is the only facility in the northeast to deal with explosives, but our strength remains the same since its inception in 1985.”

As part of an initiative to train Assam police and other security agencies on how best to tackle the new face of terror, the FSL had last month set up an Explosives Museum.

“The idea of the museum is to enable security agencies to identity various types of explosives and how the militants use them,” Padmapani said.

The Assam government, meanwhile, has decided to revamp the 50,000 strong police force.

“We have to modernise and revamp the police force, besides recruiting additional men to meet the new challenges. Imparting advanced training is also on the cards,” Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said.

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