Shillong, June 3: India today unveiled a list of hotels and other assets allegedly owned by the United Liberation Front of Asom in Bangladesh in a renewed attempt to pressure the government there to act against the outlawed outfit.
The Border Security Force’s top official in the Northeast, S.C. Shrivastava, said Ulfa leaders based in Bangladesh were managing as many as seven hotels of “international standard” and some nursing homes, too.
Senior officials in Dhaka were unavailable for comment. A junior home ministry official told The Telegraph’s Dhaka correspondent that the BSF’s claims appeared to be in line with the “usual Bangladesh-bashing some Indian officials like to do”.
Shrivastava, who is in charge of the Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur and Nagaland frontier, read out from a list that said the militant group owned Surma International, Hotel Mohammadia and Padma International in Dhaka, Keya International and Hotel Yamuna in Sylhet and Hotel Basundhara and Hotel Raj King in Chittagong.
He said the managers of these hotels were Ulfa militants who operated under aliases such as Ahmed, Kamal Hossain, Saidul, Shoal, Humayun and Rubel.
“The hotels and a few nursing homes are under the direct control of Ulfa top guns in Bangladesh or outside.”
The BSF revealed details of at least three of Ulfa’s “active” bank accounts. The accounts were traced to Arab Bangladesh Bank’s Zinda Bazaar branch in Sylhet (account number 025401/08), the same bank’s Farm Gate branch in Dhaka (account number 5266709/15) and Al-barakah Bank’s Pahartali branch in Chittagong (account number 09/229472).
Shrivastava did not rule out the possibility of incarcerated Ulfa leader Anup Chetia ' his sentence was supposed to have ended on February 25 but he remains in jail ' being a key man in the outfit’s business ventures. He was arrested on December 21, 1997.
India has been seeking, unsuccessfully, for years to have him extradited, as it has been trying ' again tasting repeated failures ' to persuade Dhaka to crack down on Northeast militants who have allegedly taken shelter in Bangladesh.
Although today’s allegations were levelled by a BSF official in the region, intelligence sources in Delhi said it was highly improbable that the government had not been kept informed.
The disclosures come about 10 days after Bangladesh Rifles ostensibly began an operation to flush out militants on May 24.
“We were informed by them about the offensive; it was very nice of them to have done that. But of what use is an offensive like that if a major outfit (Ulfa) is left out'” Shrivastava asked.
At least five militants of the National Liberation Front of Tripura were reported killed in an encounter with the forces on May 27. Sources said the counter-insurgency offensive ended on May 30.
Shrivastava said Ulfa’s businesses in Bangladesh would have been affected had the outfit been targeted in the operation.
“If it was a uniform exercise, these Ulfa-managed hotels and nursing homes should have been closed along with their bank accounts.”
The BSF official said Bangladesh had done nothing to convince India that it was serious about weeding Ulfa out of its territory. “Ulfa will never be touched and there are strong reasons for it.”
He insinuated a clandestine tie-up between the outfit and Bangladesh security forces and other government agencies.
Ulfa had a strong presence in Bhutan, too, until the Himalayan kingdom launched a military offensive called Operation All Clear in December 2003. Several veteran functionaries of the militant group were either killed or captured while returning to Assam.