Balikhuti (Sivasagar), Jan. 20: The banned Ulfa struck at the heart of Assam’s oil industry again last night, blowing up a pipeline in Sivasagar district and sparking a blaze that razed till this afternoon.
Jolted by the fourth such attack in less than two weeks, the onshore Oil Security Co-ordination Committee hurriedly assembled in Guwahati to chalk out a strategy to protect oil pipelines and other installations from the militants. An official source said the meeting decided to “enhance vigilance”.
Oil India Ltd (OIL) has yet to estimate the damage caused by the latest strike. The militants blew up the pipeline, embedded seven feet under the ground, with an improvised explosive device around midnight. The sound of the explosion was heard from a distance of five km.
Dibrugarh superintendent of police Satyendra Narayan Singh and his Sivasagar counterpart Deepak Kumar rushed to the spot around 2 am. A manhunt was immediately launched in the area and the police rounded up 16 people for interrogation.
Police teams from the nearby Borbam, Rajgarh, Tingkhong, Moran and Moranhat police stations and army personnel from the nearby camps rushed to the spot.
An OIL official said at the site of the blast said the feeder pipeline, which carries crude from the Salmari oil collecting station to the Moran tank farm, was damaged in the blast. “However, the adjacent trunk line was not damaged. This helped prevent a major disaster,” he said.
A senior police official admitted to being worried over the modus operandi of the militants — unlike on previous occasions, they chose a remote location and targeted an underground pipe this time.
“They generally target the overground pipelines, but on this occasion, they dug the ground upto seven feet to plant the improvised explosive device and trigger the explosion,” the Dibrugarh SP said.
The militants probably chose the location after much thought. It is nearly 60 km from Dibrugarh town and the final three-km stretch of the road is unfit for vehicles, which is why fire-tenders could not reach the spot immediately after the blast.
“The fire could be brought under control only after 11 hours, which is around 11 am today. Water had to be pumped from a nearby stream to douse the flames,” the SP said.
Nearly 60 OIL workers are engaged in the task of repairing the pipeline.
OIL chief engineer (production) Ashok Buragohain is supervising the work, which is expected to be complete by tomorrow morning.