The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rebel arms-supply chain back on track

New Delhi, May 7: Barely a month after a cache of arms and explosives meant for militant groups in the Northeast was confiscated in Bangladesh, another large consignment of weapons amassed from some East European countries and the erstwhile Soviet republics is suspected to be headed for the region.

Security agencies claim to have got wind of a plan by gunrunners to smuggle in the huge consignment through the porous Indo-Bangladesh or Indo-Myanmar borders.

A senior official said the arms haul in Chittagong was only a third of the consignment that originated in Malaysia. He said the cache of arms, however, could not have come from a single source.

Bangladesh police seized the weapons while these were being unloaded from two fishing trawlers on the bank of the Karnaphuli river in the port city of Chittagong. The haul, the largest in that country, included 4,930 types of modern firearms, 27,020 hand grenades, 840 rockets, 300 rocket-launcher accessories, 2,000 grenade-launching tubes, 6,392 magazines and 1,140,520 rounds of ammunition.

The three chiefs of the defence services were on a two-day visit to Shillong from Wednesday for a meeting that a source in the army’s eastern command described as crucial to the development of the intelligence network in the Northeast.

The stress was on equipping all the defence installations on the eastern frontiers with the “latest technology”, the source said.

Mizoram, which borders both Myanmar and Bangladesh, is one of the states that are concerned over infiltration by militants and gunrunners. Mizoram home minister Tawnluia even accused the Border Security Force (BSF) of not manning the state’s 710-km border with Bangladesh effectively.

“Let the BSF be withdrawn as it seems to have outlived its utility. Other alternatives should be thought of, including fencing the border,” he said.

The minister declined to comment on the conduct of BSF personnel, saying the Centre knew about the state of affairs. “We apprised Delhi of the situation several times, but no action has been initiated so far.”

Manipur chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh recently voiced similar concerns. He demanded that the state’s border with Myanmar be entirely fenced to prevent smuggling of arms and drugs.

Since the implementation of the one-force-one-border policy, the BSF has been guarding the Indo-Bangladesh border in the Northeast, while the Assam Rifles has been keeping vigil on the Indo-Bhutan and Indo-Myanmar borders.

In Bangladesh, the five-member committee that was constituted to investigate the gunrunning racket confirmed the involvement of three persons in the operation. However, none of them has been arrested.

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