Calcutta, March 18: Militants active in north Bengal and Assam are trained in Afghanistan by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee told the Assembly today.
“We came to learn about this from the confessions made by KLO (Kamtapur Liberation Organisation) and Ulfa (United Liberation Front of Asom) activists arrested in north Bengal,” the chief minister said.
“During interrogation, they confessed to receiving military training in Afghanistan under the supervision of the ISI.”
Alarmed at reports of the ISI’s influence in the north, Bhattacharjee said the government is now trying to trace possible links between People’s War-Maoist Communist Centre guerillas and the ISI in south Bengal.
To rein in the rebels, the Centre recently set up a cell comprising Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Jharkhand and Bihar, which witnessed a surge of violent strikes.
“We have also joined the cell,” Bhattacharjee said, adding that Bengal was finding it tough to tackle the Naxalites as they often took shelter in Jharkhand after striking in bordering West Midnapore, Purulia and Bankura.
He added that Naxalite activities in Bengal were in control other than in areas under four police stations — Belpahari and Binpur in West Midnapore, Ranibandh in Bankura and Bandwan in Purulia.
“These (Naxalite) forces are not in a position to penetrate rural Bengal because of development work by the Left Front government. But they are taking shelter in the jungles of West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia and often shift to Jharkhand when the police are hot on their trail.”
Bhattacharjee told the House that two arrests have been made in connection with the February 25 landmine blast at Nundhola in Belpahari. Eight people, including two police officers and five Eastern Frontier Rifles jawans, were killed in the explosion.
The police are pinning hopes on Prabhas Mahato, a resident of Damgarh in Belpahari, and Shyam Shabar, from Dhabalgarh in Jharkhand, to learn about Naxalite operations in the region and the rebels’ links with other extremist outfits. Their interrogation is on.
The morale of the police force in the region had suffered a blow after a spate of strikes targeting them. There were demands for more personnel and sophisticated arms to match the militants’ firepower.
The chief minister today said the families of the policemen killed were given Rs 1 lakh each.