April 10: The army gunned down eight Ulfa members, two of them women, in Arunachal Pradesh today and promptly touted it as the most successful “single strike” in a decade of counter-insurgency operations against the banned militant group.
The encounter took place at Lathao in Lohit district of Arunachal Pradesh, which has of late become the favourite sanctuary of Ulfa militants on the run. Lathao is about 25 km from Namsai town.
Col Pramit Saxena, commanding officer of the 7/11 Gorkha Rifles, said from the battalion headquarters at Kakopathar in Assam that soldiers found two Kalashnikov rifles, a 9mm pistol, a huge quantity of assorted ammunition and mobile phones on the slain militants.
“We started mobilising our columns on Thursday after receiving information about some Ulfa members moving about in Tiklibam and Hilaguri Chapori. This area is the favoured transit route for Ulfa militants wanting to enter or exit the dense Manabhum forest,” Col Saxena said.
The encounter that the army had been preparing for since last week took placearound 5 am. Soldiers from the 7/11 Gorkha Rifles had just begun a search operation at Hiljan, a tiny settlement across the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border, when they were fired upon from a hut. “As soon as our men approached the hut, they were greeted by a volley of bullets. The militants hiding there also lobbed a grenade, but our soldiers killed two of them,” the commanding officer said.
The troops, led by Lt Pankaj Kumar, chased the remaining militants for about one-and-a-half km and another gunbattle began. Six of the militants fell to army bullets during the exchange of fire, which continued till 11 am. There was no casualty on the army’s side.
The slain militants were part of a 15-member group that was planning to enter Assam from the Manabhum forest through Hiljan. Their destination was probably Sadiya, a source said.
The army resumed operations against Ulfa in the wake of attacks by the militant group on Hindi-speaking people in January. The focus of operations has since shifted from Upper Assam, which has always been an Ulfa stronghold, to the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border.
The militant group has lost 16 members, including its “Alpha Company” chief Himeswar Borsaikia, since March 31. Alpha Company is a unit of the outfit’s dreaded 28 Battalion.
The militants killed in the operation today are “sergeant major” Jagran Doloi alias Mridul Tamuli of Sadiya, “SS corporal” Bituparna Dabidar alias Rishab Gogoi (also of Sadiya), “SS corporal” Prafulla alias Pronab Rajkhowa of Dirak, Rupam Moran, Madan Gogoi (both from Sadiya), Anup Swargiary alias Jayanta Sonowal from Ghumtal village in Dibrugarh district, Bithika Kachari alias Papu Bora and “SS lance corporal” Lily Moran alias Jyoti Bora of Kakopathar-Dirak.
On April 4, police arrested the wife of a senior Ulfa leader, Jibon Moran, in Cachar district. Gauhati High Court today asked the Cachar administration to produce the couple’s three minor children along with their custodian at a hearing on April 12.
A division bench issued the directive after admitting a habeas corpus petition filed yesterday by Moran’s brother Vinod Dangoria, seeking to know the whereabouts of the children since their mother Madhuri was arrested.
Cachar police informed the court that the children were with a person identified as Kumar Singh of Lakhipur.