The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Gunbattle at Gogoi door

Guwahati, Oct. 30: Two days after the mortar attack on the capital complex, Dispur was today rocked by a fierce encounter between police and two militants of the Ulfa’s Enigma unit. The site of the encounter is barely a few yards from chief minister Tarun Gogoi’s private residence.

Though the police gunned down the two militants, the incident again exposed the vulnerability of the capital to attacks. A Black Panther commando sustained bullet wounds in the three-hour gunbattle at Lachit Path, close to the MLAs’ hostel.

The encounter took place when the Ulfa rebels had sneaked into the area to collect Rs 40 lakh from a businessman. As soon as the rebels arrived, a police team that had been tipped off about their plan accosted them. The rebels immediately opened fire and attempted to flee, but one of them was shot dead. The other militant entered a nearby house. A team of commandos, led by city superintendent of police Paresh Neog, later stormed the house and killed the rebel.

Inspector-general of police (law and order) S.P. Kakoti, said the slain rebels were members of the Ulfa’s crack Enigma unit. However, he said it would be premature to assume that the same rebels were involved in Sunday’s mortar attack on the capital complex.

The rebels have been identified as Speed Hazarika of Nagaon and Mitu Baruah of Nalbari. The injured Black Panther is Sadiq Ali.

Intelligence agencies said there were still loopholes in security in and around the capital complex, which is why the two rebels could sneak into the area despite the presence of security forces. The government has ordered a probe into the mortar attack, while the Kamrup district administration has clamped Section 144, banning the assembly of five or more persons.

“We don’t deny the presence of Ulfa militants in the city. But we will get them, as we did today,” Kakoti said.

Neog, too, said the police were doing their job in earnest. He claimed that the police were on the trail of the two slain rebels since October 26. “We finally succeeded in eliminating them today.”

In political circles, the topic of discussion was the chief minister’s remark yesterday that security forces had not been able to prevent hit-and-run operations by militants because they conduct operations and sneak back into Bhutan.

PCC president Paban Singh Ghatowar echoed Gogoi’s demand for demolition of militant hideouts in the Himalayan kingdom and deployment of BSF personnel along the Indo-Bhutan border. He said the Congress would raise the demand in the winter session of Parliament.

Ghatowar said with 96 per cent of the Northeast having international borders, the vulnerability of the region to infiltration was much more than any other part of the country.

Gogoi had yesterday branded the Ulfa and the NDFB as the “main hindrances” to development, signalling the beginning of an all-out offensive. Since returning to power, the Congress has been extra careful in handling the problem of militancy. The accent of its policy has been on bringing the militant leadership to the negotiation table.

However, there seems to be a change in tack with Ulfa militants attacking Dispur and the NDFB mowing down 21 non-tribal residents of a village in Kokrajhar district.

The BJP has called a 12-hour statewide bandh tomorrow in protest against the government’s alleged failure to prevent the ISI and its allies from making inroads into the state. The president of the party’s state unit, Rajen Gohain, said the situation was more serious than the government considered it to be.

Official sources said additional security forces had been deployed at vital installations throughout the state in view of the recent militant attacks.

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