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Plea to Centre for KLO flushout drive

- Bengal govt requests Union home secretary to help launch move along with Assam police

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

After a successful year in office — during which she brought 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 be 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 Bengal government decided to seek the Centre’s help following the report, adding that the militant outfit 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 in the talks with Union home secretary Anil 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.

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 officials 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 in the coming days. Different security agencies have been asked to co-ordinate,” a senior official said.

The state government sources said Goswami briefed the chief minister about the worsening situation in neighbouring Bangladesh, which will go to polls on January 5 amid unprecedented violence.

As the 18-party Opposition coalition, led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, is not taking part in the elections and has launched violent protests to ensure low voter turnout, 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 along the border.

“It has also been decided that the border would be sealed from January 4 to 6,” a senior official said.

The Bengal government today requested the Centre to release funds for strengthening coastal security, especially in the Sunderbans. “The Union home secretary has asked the government to send proposals to the home ministry,” the official said.