Assam on alert after militant strikes (Lead)

March 15th, 2011 - 2:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Guwahati, March 15 (IANS) A security alert was sounded in election-bound Assam Tuesday, a day after militants bombed the ruling Congress party’s headquarters, injuring five party workers, and killed nine Border Security Force (BSF) troopers in separate attacks.

“A state of high alert was sounded across Assam with police, army and paramilitary troopers deployed in strength to foil any further militant attacks. We would be dealing with the militants with a very firm hand,” Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said.

Army and paramilitary columns have started a massive anti-insurgency operation in militant strongholds amid intelligence reports of more rebel strikes in the run up to the April 4 and 11 assembly elections.

“The militants might try to strike, especially by targeting politicians, to make their presence felt,” an Assam police official said requesting that he not be named.

On Monday night, militants of the anti-talk faction of the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) led by the elusive Paresh Baruah allegedly triggered a powerful remote-controlled explosion at the Congress office in the heart of Assam’s main city Guwahati.

Five Congress office bearers were injured in the blast which resulted in the wall and roof of the building caving in.

In yet another attack late Monday, tribal separatists of the anti-talk faction of the outlawed National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) ambushed a bus carrying 20 BSF troopers near Ultapani in Kokrajhar district, about 220 km west of Guwahati.

Nine troopers were killed and five injured.

The anti-talk faction of the ULFA had in an email statement last month threatened to attack Congress leaders and warned people against participating in party rallies in the run up to the assembly elections.

The ULFA in the past has killed at least a dozen Congress leaders during elections since the 1996 assembly polls.

The ULFA statement last month said the Congress party was responsible for dividing the outfit — luring some leaders into holding peace talks with the government.

A faction of the NDFB too is in peace mode by entering into a ceasefire with New Delhi.

Both the ULFA and the NDFB are fighting for independent homelands outside the Indian union.

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

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