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Workers killed in Assam firing

Kokrajhar, April 2: Three persons, including a woman, working at a construction site, were killed while one was injured when suspected National Santhali Liberation Army (NSLA) militants fired upon them at Babubil under Gossaigaon subdivision in Kokrajhar district of Assam around 11.45 this morning.

Police sources said four to five armed militants in army fatigues came to an RCC bridge construction site and fired indiscriminately, killing two labourers and a truck driver. The labourers have been identified as Ashatan Bibi, 30, and Saiful Sheikh, 32, and the truck driver as Rajib Muchahary, 35.

Another labourer, Aiyuf Rehman, who was injured, has been admitted to Gossaigaon civil hospital.

Sources said there were about 10-12 labourers working at the site when the incident occurred.

The site is around 7km from Gossaigaon town, which is 40km from Kokrajhar town, the district headquarters.

“There were four of them. They were carrying arms and had their faces covered with black cloth. Three of them were carrying big arms while one was carrying a small arm. They fired upon us indiscriminately. Hearing the gunshots, we fled,” another labourer said.

Sources said the militants had earlier demanded a ransom of Rs 3 lakh after kidnapping the contractor involved in the construction of the bridge.

“They had also come earlier and asked us to stop the construction. We had informed the main contractor about it but he had asked us to continue with our work. He had said he would look into it but then this incident happened today,” a labourer said.

Senior police officers have rushed to the spot to take stock of the situation.

Police sources suspect Deepak Hembrum, deputy commander-in-chief of NSLA, carried out the attack.

An empty cartridge and 10 rounds of live ammunition of AK-47 rifles were recovered from the spot.

The police said NSLA militants are active in the area and are carrying out subversive activities like kidnapping, extortion and killings.

A search is on to arrest the culprits.

Formed in 2005, the NSLA is a splinter group of the Adivasi People’s Army, which is influential among the plantation workers in Kokrajhar, Chirang and Udalguri districts of the BTAD.

The NSLA’s chairman is Efril Murmu and its vice-chairman is Lakhiram Murmu.

The police said the militant group is also active in West Bengal’s Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar districts, which share a border with Assam. The militants are involved in extortion and kidnapping on both the sides of the border, they added.

The sources said NSLA cadres have links with Maoists in Jharkhand and some of their cadres are trained in the red zone.

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