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Cross-border hunt for KLO

- Search in Myanmar after Jalpaiguri blast and Malda bus attack
Kamtapur Liberation Organisation cadres at a training session at a camp in Sagaing division, Myanmar

New Delhi, Jan. 7: A hunt is on for leaders of the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) in Nepal and Myanmar where the outfit is suspected to have set up training camps in a nexus with other militant groups, security officers said.

The search comes against the backdrop of a blast in Jalpaiguri and a bus attack in Malda in Bengal last month, both blamed on the KLO.

The outfit has split its financial and military arms, one of which is run with cadres at camps in north Myanmar’s Sagaing division by general secretary Kailash Koch or “KK”, according to information accessed by The Telegraph.

Rajiv, the KLO secretary (organisation) also known as “Cobra”, operates from south-eastern Nepal, sources said.

KLO chief Jeevan Singh was in Bangladesh until a few years ago but is now said to have shifted to Myanmar. With the Sheikh Hasina government cracking down on Indian insurgents, Bangladesh has ceased to be a major sanctuary for insurgents, many of whom have fled to Myanmar or Nepal. Some others surrendered.

Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee discussed the resurgence of the KLO — which had been lying dormant for some years — with Union home secretary Anil Goswami during his visit to Calcutta on December 31. The outfit has been demanding a Kamtapur state comprising six districts of north Bengal and four of Assam.

Talks have also been held with senior army officers in north Bengal amid arrests for the blast that killed six persons and the bus firing that left four injured. The attacks had coincided with the KLO’s martyrs’ day and foundation day.

In Myanmar’s Sagaing, officials said KLO cadres share camps with Meitei and Naga insurgent groups. The region is a hotbed of militants who operate across the border in Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and beyond in Assam and Bengal. Their weapons are mostly procured from China, the officials said.

“Myanmar is beginning to realise the threat and we understand that it has asked many of these groups to vacate the camps,” a senior official in Delhi said. Some of the camps are less than 70km from the Manipur border.

In Nepal, the KLO leaders are active in the Mechi zone, bordering India, from where they have joined criminals and other militant outfits in plotting the abductions of businessmen in Siliguri and Assam, intelligence sources said. “The government of Nepal has been very helpful in our efforts,” the officer in Delhi said.

The Bengal government had sought the Centre’s permission for joint raids in Assam to flush out KLO militants. Assam DGP J.N Choudhury had met his Bengal counterpart G.M.P. Reddy on December 13 to discuss the threat. Officers of both states met again after the December 26 Jalpaiguri blast.

“The KLO’s centre of gravity has shifted to Assam. There is a well established chain of co-ordination,” said Choudhury.

The Nagaland-Manipur corridor was used for weapon smuggling by several outfits including the KLO from bases in Myanmar, the Assam police chief said, stressing the need to sharpen co-ordination with Manipur.