March 25: Militants stormed a railway station in the North Cachar Hills of Assam last night and gunned down three persons in a burst of shooting that would have left many more dead had it occurred when the platforms were teeming with passengers.
The assailants burst two grenades and emptied at least 90 shells of AK-47 and Insas rifle ammunition during the attack on Harangajao station, about 45 km from the district headquarters town of Haflong, police said.
The incident occurred around 7.30pm, just before the Cachar Express was to cross the station en route to Lumding and then to Guwahati. The train was stopped and taken back to Badarpur.
Two of the victims, railway employees Keshab Malakar and Masab Palai, were in the assistant stationmaster’s office when bullets struck them. Both died on the spot.
Neither the police nor the railway authorities could identity the third victim, possibly someone in transit. Two more persons — canteen employee Bapi Chakrabarty and vendor Bijoy Das — were injured but said to be out of danger.
The police said the attack was the handiwork of the Jewel Gorlosa faction of the Dima Halam Daogah, which till last night had targeted railway projects but not stations.
Trains stranded after the attack were to resume their journey today, but Northeast Frontier Railway extended the wait on receiving news about a bomb being found on one of the tracks in that section.
A railway spokesman at Maligaon in Guwahati said the communication network, including telephone lines, was damaged in the firing.
Two express and all local and goods trains that were to pass Harangajao last night were stalled at Badarpur junction, where railway employees ceased work this morning in protest.
Passengers took over the platforms as minutes turned into endless hours of waiting for news of the route being reopened.
The railway spokesman said six militants, all in fatigues, were involved in the attack. They quoted witnesses as saying that the rebels first lobbed two grenades and then fired continuously for at least 10 minutes.
The Gorlosa group shot dead 11 members of a railway team in an ambush at Hatikhali, near Langting, on October 6, 2006. Three months ago, the same group killed a worker of a private company engaged by NF Railway for its gauge conversion project.
The mastermind of most of the recent incidents involving the Gorlosa group was arrested in Guwahati on Sunday.
Frankie Dimasa, the deputy commander-in-chief of the Dimasa militant group and ranked third in its hierarchy, was scheduled to leave for Kathmandu via Calcutta the next day to meet Gorlosa there.
The militant was in a house at Kotahbari when a police team raided it.
An area commander of the outfit, Daniel Garlosa, was arrested at Guwahati railway station on Thursday.