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14 die as terrorists open fire at market in Assam

Published : Aug 6, 2016, 1:18 am IST
Updated : Aug 6, 2016, 1:18 am IST

NDFB(S) attack in Kokrajhar despite security high alert

Smoke coming out of shops after an attack by NDFB (S) terrorists in the market area at Balajan Tinali in Assam. (Photo: PTI)
 Smoke coming out of shops after an attack by NDFB (S) terrorists in the market area at Balajan Tinali in Assam. (Photo: PTI)

NDFB(S) attack in Kokrajhar despite security high alert

Despite all the security alerts and intelligence inputs, suspected terrorists belonging to the outlawed National Democratic Front of Bodoland (Songbijit faction) on Friday killed 14 civilians and left 15 others, including a minor girl, critically injured in an attack on a crowded weekly market in Western Assam’s Kokrajhar district.

The militants, who came in an auto-rickshaw, lobbed a powerful grenade before opening indiscriminate fire on civilians at Balajan Tinali, 10 km from Kokrajhar, the headquarters of the Bodoland Territorial Council.

Assam DGP Mukesh Shahay, who was camping in Kokrajhar, said it was the handiwork of NDFB(S) rebels. “We have eliminated one of the militants in an encounter soon after the incident and massive combing operations have been launched to nab their associates suspected to have been taking shelter in nearby areas,” said Mr Shahay, who recently told reporters that the NDFB(S) was recruiting youths in Western Assam.

He said the security forces had recovered an AK-47 rifle from the terrorist killed in an intense gunbattle with the security forces. Security sources said apart from opening fire, NDFB(S) rebels lobbed a grenade, which ravaged many shops.

The shootout occurred when the security forces were on high alert in view of the intelligence reports fearing attacks by militants in the run-up to Independence Day in Assam.

The Army, which claims to have eliminated many hardcore NDFB(S) militants in the past few months, was also carrying out counter-insurgency operations in the area against NDFB(S) rebels for the past two years.

Security sources said the incident was unusual in its nature as heavily-armed militants had not only killed civilians but also waited at least for 20 minutes and got engaged in an encounter with the security forces which arrived soon after the incident. While a militant was killed in the encounter, security sources said, at least three others managed to escape.

While narrating the incident, survivor Santosh Narzary, a trader at the market, told a local TV channel: “I saw one gunman dressed in a black raincoat-like gown and another two were sitting in an auto-rickshaw. He wasn’t firing indiscriminately, but targeting people and taking one shot at a time.”

Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal, who was in New Delhi, condemned attack by the militants, and told reporters that his government had decided to give an ex-gratia playment of `5 lakhs to the families of each of those killed. Those with critical injuries would be given ex-gratia of `2 lakhs each, while those who had suffered minor injuries would get `20,000.

Mr Sonowal said Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Rajnath Singh had called him to get details of the incident and had condemned the act of the militants. The state administration has also made arrangements to shift all those critically wounded to the Guwahati Medical College Hospital so that they can get better treatment.

Assam health and finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who reached Kokrajhar later, told reporters that the police had concrete evidence on the involvement of the NDFB(S) in the incident. He all the necessary steps had been taken to intensify security measures in the area. He added, though, that the state faced a shortage of paramilitary personnel, who had been redeployed after the elections. Mr Sarma visited the site where the attack took place. The chief minister also cut short his Delhi visit and rushed back to Guwahati Friday night.