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Since 1st March, 1999
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Bihu breather for Thapa

Guwahati, April 15: Security forces are not going all out to arrest Ulfa leader Akash Thapa, believed to be holed up in Udalguri district, because they “do not want hostilities during Bihu”.

“We are not looking for hostilities in this Bihu season...our presence is there, mainly plainclothesmen, but we are not going in for the kill,” a security official said.

Thapa, the main accused in the recent Maligaon blast, had a narrow escape on April 8 when security forces accosted the motorcycle he was pillion riding on along with his PSO at Kalaigaon in Udalguri district. Thapa’s PSO, Paresh Das alias Javed, died in the encounter but the Ulfa leader escaped in the darkness.

The police, with the help of the army, subsequently cordoned off the area and launched an operation to apprehend the fugitive. A photograph of Thapa was also distributed among the villagers.

Security forces, which cornered Thapa by tracking his mobile phone, still believe that the militant leader is holed up in the area. The forces had claimed that Thapa would have been apprehended the day after he escaped had he not switched off his mobile.

A senior police official said security personnel involved in the operation were also being withdrawn in small numbers from the area since their services were required in election-related duties, but there was not going to be any let-up in the vigil.

“We have put a mechanism in place and hopefully he will not be able to flee,” he said. “We cannot afford to remain tied up here for too long as our services are required elsewhere because of the elections,” the police official said.

The area under vigil is spread over nearly 10 villages. The official said a door-to-door search operation might be able to locate the fugitive, but it would not be proper to conduct a full-scale operation because of Bihu. “We want to avoid a shootout during Bihu, especially in a village. There could be collateral damage... There is lot of sentiment involved with Bihu.”

Sources said Thapa could slip out of the cordon in the evening when revellers throng Bihutolis for cultural shows.

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