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Bengal seeks KLO action in Assam

Calcutta, Dec. 31: Mamata Banerjee today sought the Centre’s help in carrying out joint operations with Assam police to flush out suspected Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) militants believed to have taken shelter in the neighbouring state.

The plea was made at a meeting the chief minister held at Nabanna with Union home secretary Anil Goswami and senior state government officials.

After bringing peace to Jungle Mahal and the Darjeeling hills, Mamata is faced with a fresh challenge in the form of the re-emergence of the KLO, suspected to have been involved in last week’s blast in Jalpaiguri that left six dead and the firing on a bus in Malda.

After the Jalpaiguri blast, the state home department had received intelligence reports of suspected KLO militants operating from some districts in Assam that share their borders with Bengal. Sources said the KLO was regrouping in north Bengal.

After today’s meeting, Mamata said the blast in Jalpaiguri was unfortunate.

“An investigation is on and it would not be correct for me to make any comment at this stage. But I have been told that the explosive used in the Jalpaiguri blast was dangerous. These incidents cannot be supported. Those who are behind such attacks should not be given protection. We have to resist such forces,” the chief minister said while leaving Nabanna for the day.

Mamata refused to divulge details of what transpired at the meeting with Union home secretary Goswami. “The Union home secretary held a meeting with (state government) officials and he also spoke to me as a matter of courtesy. Border areas came up for discussion as well,” she said.

The sources said increasing central forces in north Bengal to tackle the KLO came up for discussions at the meeting that was also attended by chief secretary Sanjay Mitra, home secretary Basudeb Banerjee and officers from police, the Border Security Force and the Sashastra Seema Bal.

“We understand that as of now, additional forces would not be sent. We will wait to see how the situation unfolds,” a senior official said.

The sources said Goswami briefed the chief minister about the worsening situation in Bangladesh, which will go to polls on January 5 amid violence. The Indian establishment is apprehending that people from the neighbouring country could take refuge in India.

“The chief minister was briefed about this,” said an intelligence officer.

The sources said the Union home secretary asked the additional director-general of the BSF, B.D. Sharma, to submit a report on the situation in the border areas and how the force planned to tackle it in view of the heavy deployment of Border Guards Bangladesh.

“It has been decided the border will be sealed from January 4 to 6,” an official said.

The Bengal government today requested the Centre to release funds for strengthening coastal security, especially in the Sunderbans.