ULFA planning to raise a new battalion?

July 12th, 2008 - 1:10 pm ICT by IANS  

By Syed Zarir Hussain
Tezpur (Assam), July 12 (IANS) Stung by one its potent striking units declaring a unilateral ceasefire, the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) is contemplating raising a battalion to make up for the loss, a top army commander said. “The ULFA is definitely trying to raise a battalion, but then with the Alpha and the Charlie companies of the outfit’s 28th battalion already in the mainstream now, it would be difficult for any new battalion to get a space in this kind of a situation,” Lt. Gen B.S. Jaswal, General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the Four Corps, told IANS in an exclusive interview.

Jaswal is also the operational head of the Unified Command Structure engaged in a massive anti-insurgency operation against the ULFA and other rebel armies in Assam.

“The unilateral ceasefire by the two companies of the 28th battalion has definitely come as a major setback for the ULFA. In fact, the truce by their two potent striking units have taken the teeth away from the ULFA,” the army commander said at the corps headquarters at the garrison town of Tezpur in northern Assam.

The Alpha and Charlie companies of the ULFA’s 28th battalion last month declared a unilateral ceasefire and accused their central leadership of failing to address burning issues facing the state.

“Now even the three other battalions of the ULFA (27th, 109 and 709) are keen to come (to the mainstream),” said Jaswal. After the unilateral ceasefire decision by the 28th battalion, there has been a strategic shift in the anti-insurgency operations.

“Now the focus of the operations is on the 27th, 109, and 709 battalions in central and lower (western) Assam areas. The ULFA is totally shattered in upper (eastern) Assam after the ceasefire,” the GOC said. The army commander, however, said the ULFA’s 27th battalion was carrying out extortions to fund their rebel campaigns.

“The 28th battalion was the ULFA’s main source of funding and now with the ceasefire by them, the outfit is bound to face problems in getting funds, although hefty extortions are being carried out by the 27th battalion from businesspeople,” Jaswal said.

“Anything between Rs.200,000 to Rs.50 million is being extorted depending on the scale of the business.”

The GOC also said the ULFA has a strong armoury. “They possess a wide array of weapons and has the capability to strike by using few cadres to do some random attacks,” he said.

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