The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mortars pile security pressure on police

Guwahati, Dec. 26: A day after simultaneous mortar attacks spoiled Christmas celebrations in this capital city, the Tarun Gogoi government asked police to prepare a blueprint for foolproof security.

Two persons, including a five-year-old girl, were killed and 20 more injured when suspected Ulfa rebels fired five mortars in quick succession around 7 pm last evening. The police had initially said that three mortars were used, but revised the figure on recovering five “tailfins” from the sites of the attacks.

Chief minister Gogoi today reviewed law and order with senior police officials at his residence. Sources said he pulled up the police for failing to plug the “security loopholes” that enabled militants to carry out mortar attacks in the city twice in less than two months.

Gogoi visited the sites where the mortars landed and met the families of the two victims. The district administration announced ex gratia of Rs 5,000 each to the victims’ families. Of the 20 injured in the attacks, eight are still undergoing treatment in hospital.

Director-general of police H.K. Deka later announced that the government would give Rs 1 lakh to anybody who provided information leading to the arrest of the people involved in the mortar attacks. He went into a huddle with other senior police officials immediately after emerging from the meeting with the chief minister. All police stations in and around Guwahati were asked to intensify patrolling and frisking operations.

About 50 people have been rounded up for questioning since yesterday, but the police are still not sure if the Ulfa or any other militant outfit carried out the attacks.

The Asom Gana Parishad and the state units of the CPM and the BJP pulled no punches in criticising the government and the police for the loopholes in security. The three parties said the mortar attacks had exposed the hollowness of the ruling Congress’ claims that the law and order situation had improved since it came to power.

The state government had asked the inspector general of CID, S.P. Kar, to investigate the October 27 mortar attack on the Dispur capital complex and prepare a plan to beef up security in and around the area. Sources said the blueprint for security in Dispur might now be modified to encompass the entire city.

The impunity with which the militants brought weapons to the city and carried out the attacks has stumped security forces and raised questions about the efficiency of the law and order machinery. Though the state government has given no hint of desperation, sources said heads might roll for continued security lapses.

Kar and other top police officials inspected the sites where the simultaneous attacks took place. Four mortar tailfins were recovered during a thorough search in the adjacent areas. One tailfin had been found at Kalibari, near the Guwahati railway station, immediately after the attacks.

IGP (special branch) Khagen Sharma told The Telegraph that the suspected Ulfa militants fired five 60-mm mortars. He said such mortars were generally used by the Bangladesh Rifles and the Pakistan army, but never by Indian security forces. The maximum range of such mortars is 1.68 km.

Preliminary investigation suggested that the militants used open spaces along rail tracks to fire the mortars.

The places where the militants struck — twice on Lamb Road and once at Kalibari — are close to the imposing Peace Centre building of the Baptist Church, the Don Bosco campus and the church adjacent to Nehru Park. These sites are densely populated, too.

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