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14 killed as militants attack market in Kokrajhar

The Kokrajhar district is a Bodo-dominated area and has been a centre of ethnic conflicts for a long time.

At least 14 people, including one militant were killed, and over 20 injured when suspected Bodo militants attacked Balajan Tiniali market of Kokrajhar district in Assam on Friday afternoon.

This was the first major insurgency-related strike in the State after the Bharatiya Janata Party took over the reins of Dispur following a massive win in the Assembly election in May this year.

The Kokrajhar district is a Bodo-dominated area and has been a centre of ethnic conflicts for a long time.

Speaking to the media, L.R. Bishnoi, ADGP said: “Three militants came in a shared tempo bearing AS 16C-6540 number at around 12.30 p.m. They fired indiscriminately at the general public. A quick response attack by the police led to the killing of one militant who has been identified as Bodo. One AK-56 rifle, a mobile phone, two SIM cards, a Chinese grenade and three bags have been recovered from him.”

Mr. Bishnoi said the mastermind behind the attack is suspected to be the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) led by I.K. Songbijit.

The other two militants were suspected to be holed up somewhere in the area and a hunt for them was on, he added. Six of the 13 civilians killed have been identified as: Mazhar Ali, Salam Ali, Danda Basumatary, Moniram Basumatary, Parmeswar Basumatary and Tapan Chakraborty. The injured have been rushed to the Barpeta Medical College. A six-year-old girl named Hothai Narzary is said to have been gravely injured and will be taken to the Gauhati Medical College by Saturday.

Condemning the killings as an act of cowardice, Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal directed the Finance, Education and Health Minister, Himanta Biswa Sarma, to rush to the spot and review the situation. Speaking to journalists at Kokrajhar, Mr. Sarma said: “The involvement of the NDFB(S) is suspected. We have found a photo from the militant shot down by the police and it’s clear that he belongs to this faction.”

Mobile recovered from slain militant points to NDFB(S) hand

According to officials, 36 companies of paramilitary forces were brought in for deployment in Kokrajhar district before the election. Post-poll, 27 left the district, leaving behind just nine, comprising 360 paramilitary personnel to look after three subdivisions.

“One has to praise the police for taking a response time of just seven minutes and killing one militant and putting an end to a possible massacre,” an official said. U.G. Brahma, former Rajya Sabha M.P. and United People’s Party leader said: “The attack happened due to negligence of the Government of India. I won’t comment on the possibility of NDFB(S) involvement but it’s unlikely that Bodo militants will kill their own people.”

DGP Mukesh Sahay said: “We have captured the driver of the tempo. The involvement of NDFB(S) is more likely as we found a mobile from the slain militant linked to a higher ranking leader of the group. One magazine was used in the firing and 49 rounds have been recovered. We will be intensifying our operations as soon as possible.”

Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal arrived in Guwahati after meeting National Security Adviser Ajit Doval in Delhi. He will be holding a special meeting at the Brahmaputra Guest House to discuss the issue. Mr. Sonowal has announced a special ex-gratia of Rs. 5 lakh to the dead and Rs. 1 lakh each to the injured.

Security forces and the police said the NDFB(S) was not in talks with the government. This group is against the peace talks. Intelligence agencies reckon that the attack may be in retaliation to the killing of a leader of the faction last month.

Joint operation

On Thursday, a joint operation was launched by the Army and the police along the Assam-Bhutam border to nab the key leaders of the faction. The attack may have been an attempt to divert the attention of security forces from the operation.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned the attack and said the Home Ministry was in touch with the Assam government. “Saddened by the attack in Kokrajhar. We strongly condemn it. Thoughts & prayers with the bereaved families & those injured,” he tweeted.

(With PTI inputs)

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2020 11:56:59 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/14-killed-as-militants-attack-market-in-Kokrajhar/article14555255.ece

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