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33 killed in Assam tribal bloodbath

Dimapur/Nagaon, March 24: Militants claiming to represent the Kuki tribe massacred 33 villagers of the Karbi community in Assamís Karbi Anglong district today, fuelling the cauldron of ethnic hatred in which scores of people from either group have perished since last year.

The killings took place in three villages, which were attacked within a few hours of each other. Less than a week ago, the militant Kuki Revolutionary Army (KRA) had threatened to resume its offensive in retaliation to the killing of five Kuki villagers by militants of the rival United Peopleís Democratic Solidarity (UPDS)ís anti-talks faction.

The number of casualties in the attacks is the highest in Karbi Anglong district on a single day since the KRA and the UPDS began hostilities. The Holiram Terang faction of the Autonomous State Demand Committee called a 10-hour Karbi Anglong bandh tomorrow in protest against the killings.

No senior police official was available in Diphu, which is the district headquarters, for comment. An official said all of them were in the two incident sites to supervise combing operations.

Sources said a group of 30 KRA militants raided Uden Tisso and Sarpo Terong villages in the Karbi-dominated Delai-Kailajan area, 32 km from Diphu, around 4 am and separated the men from the women and children. The assailants then sprayed bullets on the men, killing 27 of them on the spot and injuring eight. The victims included the two village headmen after whom the villages had been named.

Another group of KRA militants attacked a third Karbi village, Jari Teron, around noon and killed six villagers.

Over 10 houses were set ablaze and five villagers killed by militants belonging to the anti-talks faction of the UPDS at Thongbong on Friday. KRA militants had gunned down three labourers belonging to the Nepali community near the Singhasan Hills two days earlier.

Before the incident on March 19, there was a two-month lull in Karbi Anglong, brought about by a series of meetings between community leaders under the gaze of the civil administration and the police. On December 27, Karbi and Kuki leaders assembled in Diphu and signed a peace agreement.

The KRA accuses the Karbi community of trying to chase out Kukis from Karbi Anglong. There are about 100 Kuki villages in the district.

The Kukis claim that the Karbi community is jealous of members of their community prospering by cultivating ginger in the Singhasan Hills.

Karbi organisations, on the other hand, say that the nomadic Kukis have no place in Karbi Anglong. The Kukis have been accused of importing a gun culture from their homeland, Manipur.

Last year, there were reports of Kuki ginger farmers hiring the services of a militant group of Manipur to protect them from the UPDS. Kuki farmers based in the Singhasan Hills, named so because the range resembles a throne, said they decided to seek help after failing to sell their produce because of the UPDS-imposed ban on sale of agricultural produce from Karbi Anglong outside the district.

Intelligence sources said the KRA leadership went into a huddle a few days ago and resolved not to remain a silent spectator to the attacks being carried out by the UPDS against Kuki women and children.

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