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Ulfa hits back with pipeline blast

Jan. 10: The Ulfa today blew up a pipeline of the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited (ONGC) in Sivasagar, sending out the message loud and clear that it may be down but not out even after the setbacks in Bhutan.

The pre-dawn attack sent police and other forces scurrying to beef up security in and around vital installations in Upper Assam.

There are fears of more attacks by the outfit, which is eager to prove a point in the wake of the offensive against its camps in Bhutan.

Today’s blast comes on the heels of a businessman’s murder near Jorhat on Wednesday. This was followed by yet another attack on a police station in Lower Assam’s Goalpara district on Thursday.

Though ONGC officials based in Nazira described the damage to the pipeline as “minimal”, police admitted that a major environmental catastrophe could have taken place.

Some 1,000 litres of crude oil could have spilled into the Dikhow river following the blast, which occurred in the early hours at Nakatani village.

The damaged pipeline connects two gas stations, Number 1 and Number 4, of the ONGC across the Dikhow. The stations are on either side of the river, with the pipeline crossing the Dikhow parallel to a road bridge.

Sivasagar deputy commissioner Gayatri Baruah said, “Though there was a little oil spill on the bank of the river, there was not much damage. The pipeline was restored by ONGC workers soon after the blast.”

Preliminary investigations have revealed that the militants used RDX to carry out the explosion, a police official in Sivasagar said. “The sound of the blast was heard up to a distance of five km,” the official added.

Senior police officials have rushed to the area and are supervising combing operations to arrest the militants involved in the blast.

Police said an alert has been sounded in all the districts of Upper Assam following the incident. Security has been beefed up in the Oil India Ltd (OIL) and ONGC installations.

Today’s incident comes a few days after a communiqué from police headquarters in Guwahati told superintendents of police to be extra vigilant.

Intelligence agencies had warned that the militants might try to attack vital installations to avenge the Bhutan operations.

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