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Joint raids to flush out rebels

- Assam, Nagaland maintain vigil on border

Jorhat/Diphu, Jan. 9: The Assam and Nagaland governments are contemplating joint operations along the inter-state boundary to flush out militants from areas bordering Assam’s trouble-torn Karbi Anglong district.

Assam parliamentary secretary for home Atuwa Munda told The Telegraph from Dhubri today that both the state governments were in touch as they do not want to let the violence escalate and affect relations between the two states.

“Following the meeting between chief ministers Tarun Gogoi and Neiphiu Rio at Jorhat on December 31, the home departments and top police brass of both the states were in touch and the possibility of conducting operations jointly by Assam and Nagaland police is under consideration,” he said.

Munda said there might be a need for joint operations along the border areas to flush out militants as the rebels sneak across both sides of the border. “To tackle such a situation, the assistance of Nagaland police will be needed,” he added. Munda had visited the violence-hit areas of Karbi Anglong last week.

The Nagaland government is maintaining vigil along the inter-state boundary as Assam police are conducting raids in adjacent Karbi Anglong to arrest troublemakers and Karbi and Rengma Naga militants.

Karbi Anglong superintendent of police Mugdha Jyoti Mahanta said today that joint teams of police, CRPF and army personnel have launched operations mostly on the eastern side of the district to flush out militants. “We are expecting a major breakthrough soon,” he added.

With pressure to act against the militant groups mounting, both police and district administration officials from Diphu, the district headquarters of Karbi Anglong, are camping in the border areas.

The police and the district administration have been under fire from various quarters, including the Karbi Students Association, for allegedly failing to contain the trouble brewing since June last year in the villages, where suspected Karbi Peoples’ Liberation Tiger (KPLT) militants had attacked and gunned down four Rengma villagers on December 27. Two KPLT militants had also died in the exchange of fire with Naga Rengma Hills Protection Force (NRHPF) militants at Khowanigaon, about 100km from Diphu.

After the attack, hundreds of Rengma and Karbi villages left their villages. Altogether 3,131 villagers, including 1,033 women and 911 children, are taking shelter in nine relief camps in the district.

Possibly in retaliation to the December 27 attack, nine youths from Karbi Anglong were shot dead near Dimapur in neighbouring Nagaland on December 28. Their bodies were found on January 4, the day a youth was shot dead in Bokajan subdivision of Karbi Anglong.

Villagers at Silonijan camp, who had fled after seeing their neighbours being killed and houses being burnt at Khowanigaon, Khanari, Phansaraf and Karengbasti villages (about 10km from the camp), had said yesterday that they wanted the militants to be flushed out as they were fed up with years of extortion.

Sources said the KPLT and NRHPF have less than 100 cadres and the joint operation would target their hideouts in the forested areas where they were spreading terror. “Both the groups are getting arms from the NSCN. So we are taking the help of police in Nagaland too,” a source said.

The police have arrested 24 members of KPLT and NRHPF in connection with the attacks since December 27. Sarhon Teron, 23, a KPLT “corporal”, was arrested today during an operation undertaken by Borpathar police in Karbi Anglong. Preliminary investigations have revealed Teron's involvement in the December 27 attack, a police source said.

Ten companies of CRPF and 10 platoons of Assam police battalions have so far been deployed in the troubled areas of the district.

The Centre has decided to hand over the investigation into the Dimapur massacre to the National Investigation Agency (NIA).