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Traces of Ulfa on Bhutan soil

Udalguri, Nov. 13: Police teams from Assam and Bhutan jointly searched for a suspected Ulfa training camp in the Himalayan kingdom a couple of weeks ago and found evidence contradicting the Bhuta-nese embassy’s denial of the presence of any militant hideout in that country after Operation All Clear.

The search operation was conducted on the basis of revelations by an Ulfa militant, Jayanta Kalita. The arrested rebel told the police that he was part of a group of at least six Ulfa recruits who underwent training in Bhutan less than a year after the December 2003 military operation to flush out militants from that country.

Kalita guided the police teams from Assam and Bhutan through the forests he had crossed on the way to the camp but failed to trace the exact route.

“He could not take us to the exact spot where the camp was located as it was in a thick jungle and he had been there more than two years ago. But we did find a rocket and remnants of a rocket shell, confirming the presence of militants in the area at some point of time,” police officer Hiranya Patar, who led the Indian search team, said.

Patar is the officer-in-charge of the Dimakuchi outpost under Paneri police station of Udalguri district, bordering Bhutan. The Bhutanese team was led by the officer-in-charge of Deothan police station, on the other side of the border.

Bhutan has been denying the presence of militants in that country since it conducted Operation All Clear to evict Ulfa, the National Democratic Front of Boroland and the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation from its soil.

However, Kalita’s statements and the discovery of remnants of warfare in Bhutan territory confirmed the worst fears of the security establishment. Director-general of police D.N. Dutt said earlier this month that countering Ulfa’s resurgence in Bhutan was the main challenge for security forces engaged in counter-insurgency operations.

The Ulfa militant whose statements led to the discovery of the first fragments of evidence was arrested in connection with the killing of a former Bodo Liberation Tigers rebel, Nagen Boro, on October 20. The search operation in Bhutan was conducted on November 1.

Kalita told the police that his training stint in Bhutan lasted 22 days in the summer of 2004 but he could not remember the month.

He also could not identify the other recruits. “We had been instructed not to reveal our true identities to one another,” the police quoted him as saying.

Detailing the training schedule, Kalita said all recruits were taught how to handle various weapons and lob grenades unerringly at targets. The physical training was rigorous, he added.

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