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Militant felled in shootout with army

Jalpaiguri, Dec. 27: Cadets of the 20 Mountain Brigade posted at Kumargram on the India-Bhutan border gunned down a KLO militant last night after a fierce shootout.

The slain militant was identified as Balaram Singha alias Sanat Roy, who was part of the fourth batch of trained KLO rebels and a resident of Ghagrabari in Kumargram.

Army personnel arrested Bijoy Roy alias Kitab Das, a second-batch militant wanted in 10 cases including murder and abduction, and Birsa Munda, an untrained youth who used to stay at the KLO camp in Piping. Raids are on to track down three more militants.

Jalpaiguri superintendent of police Siddh Nath Gupta said: “A group of KLO militants from the Piping camp of the KLO were trying to sneak into India last evening when the jawans on patrol near the Newlands tea estate of Kumargram spotted them. Being challenged, the militants fired indiscriminately.”

Gupta said army began a combing operation after two of its jawans were injured. Another encounter followed.

Balaram’s body was spotted in course of the search operation. Minutes later, Bijoy Roy was picked up. “Searches are on to get hold of the remaining three militants,” said Gupta.

Police sources said the jawans came across a woman while on patrol. When they asked her who she was, she fired. One of the bullets hit a soldier. The woman was later identified as Lina, wife of Ulfa militant Fighter, and a resident of the Piping camp. A source said she was carrying her child on her back while trying to sneak in.

Even as the army personnel were engaging Lina in a shootout, a suspected KLO militant opened fire, injuring another jawan. The militant then fled into an adjacent jungle despite sustaining a bullet injury in his feet. The others in his gang continued to fight.

The injured jawans were taken to the army hospital at Binnaguri. One of them was later shifted to Calcutta.

Apart from the extremist duo and the dead Balaram, the search yielded 850 rounds of live cartridge, including those used in AK rifles and 9mm pistols.

Sources said KLO militants like Nilambar Rajbangsi, Tapan Barua and Hari Barman were part of the gang and they are now being tracked down.

Nilambar Rajbanshi alias Manchalal Singha is a second-batch KLO militant and resident of Kharibari in Darjeeling. Tapan Barua alias Manoranjan Roy is also a second-batch rebel and a resident of Fataktari in Jalpaiguri, the native village of KLO crack squad chief Tom Adhikary, said Gupta. “We have started search operations along with the army. We will get hold of them soon,” he added.

The district police chief said Harshavardhan Das, the militant arrested by the Royal Bhutan Army from the central headquarters of the Ulfa at Deothang in Samdrup Jongkhar, told the police here that 17 KLO militants used to stay there and at the Ulfa’s general headquarters in the same district.

“Harshavardhan Das alias Vardhaman Das informed us that 14 KLO militants out of these 17 have surrendered before the Bhutan army. Antim Barua alias Bisharu, the camp in charge of the KLO in the headquarters, is yet to be traced. Sishu Mohan Roy has been gunned down at Tamulpur by the army. We are yet to receive 34 militants arrested by the Bhutan army,” Gupta said. He added that out of 85 KLO militants wanted by the police before the Bhutan army launched Operation Flushout, the whereabouts of 47 are known.

Asked about “untrained Birsa Munda’s stint at the Piping camp and the possibility of the formation of a fifth batch, Gupta said: “We have information about them. Birsa, along with two other youths — Bacchu and Haria — used to work there as aides to the militants.”

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