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Rajkhowa sidesteps plane trap
- Ulfa top gun gets wind of plan, grounded in Bhutan

Siliguri, Sept. 8: After an aborted escape bid, United Liberation Front of Asom chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa is cooling his heels in Bhutan, unable to get away from the Himalayan kingdom.

Intelligence sources said Rajkhowa had made a daring attempt to get away from Bhutan on a Druk Air flight to Bangladesh, hours before foreign minister Yashwant Sinha was to arrive in Thimphu on August 4 on a three-day visit. But at the last minute, he abandoned the idea after being tipped off that security officials lay in wait to catch him at Calcutta airport, where the plane was to stop over before moving on to Dhaka.

Rajkhowa, hiding out in Bangladesh along with another top Ulfa leader Paresh Barua to evade Indian security agencies, had gone to Bhutan on July 17 to visit Ulfa’s forest bases in Sukhni, Sandrup Jongkhar, Nganglam and Pemagatsel areas.

Sources said Rajkhowa, travelling on a fake Thai passport, was to board the morning flight to Bangkok on his way to Dhaka via Calcutta that day.

The agents had learnt of his secret “departure” after intercepting a brief telephone conversation between two diplomats based in Calcutta and Thimphu the night before Sinha’s visit to the Bhutanese capital. Immediately, they had drawn up a plan to “offload” the Ulfa chairman in Calcutta at any cost.

Under the plan, the agents were to kick up a bomb scare when the plane landed at Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose international airport. The agents had thought they would pick up the Ulfa leader as he got off the aircraft with other passengers and spirit him away. They had been worried that any mistake in identifying him would leave them with eggs on their faces and trigger a public outcry.

But all the planning and preparations to trap the militant, with a high price on his head, were in vain. As Rajkhowa sped to the Paro airport, he was informed of the trap the agencies had set for him in Calcutta.

Sources said Rajkhowa was now left with no choice but to risk an escape through the mountainous terrain with the help of the KLO.

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