Three soldiers were killed and three others were injured on Saturday in an ambush by suspected members of a hardline ULFA faction in Assam’s Tinsukia district, police said.
This is the first major attack on security forces by the banned United Liberation Front of Asom (Independence) in the state since the BJP-led government of Sarbananda Sonowal came to power in May.
Police said the heavily armed militants ambushed a two-vehicle army convoy in a forest area, about 510 km northeast of Guwahati, at around 5.30 am.
The vehicles with army personnel were on their way to the oil town of Digboi.
The three slain jawans – identified as havildars Multan Singh and Rishi Pal and Naik Narpat Singh – were from the 15 Kumaon Regiment.
According to officials, the army vehicles—a truck and a Maruti Gypsy--- were targeted with bullets and rocket-propelled grenades by militants hiding behind roadside trees and bushes.
“They also detonated an improvised explosive device (IED). When the jawans got down from their vehicles after the blast, they were attacked,” said Guwahati-based Army spokesperson Lt. Col. Suneet Newton.
The injured were airlifted to a nearby army base hospital with multiple wounds.
Saturday’s incident took place near the area where one person was killed and two others injured in an earlier attack on Wednesday, also by suspected ULFA (I).
Deeply anguished to learn of the death of Army soldiers in a blast in Tinsukia. I pray for the speedy recovery of our injured soldiers. 1/2— Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh) November 19, 2016
Spoke to Assam CM Sh. Sonowal who apprised me of the situation in the wake of blast in Tinsukia. MHA is closely monitoring the situation 2/2— Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh) November 19, 2016
“Our government will take firm action against terrorism. The perpetrators of this crime will be identified and brought to justice,” chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal tweeted.
Union home minister Rajnath Singh spoke to Sonowal and took stock of the situation during a ten-minute telephonic conversation.
“I am deeply anguished by the death of army soldiers in a blast in Tinsukia and prayed for the speedy recovery of the injured,” Singh said in Delhi.
The ULFA (I), the only active faction of the outfit formed in 1979, has spurned several peace overtures by the state and central governments over the years. Led by the reclusive commander Paresh Barua, ULFA (I) professes to be fighting for an independent Asom, the name by which they call the state.
More than 10,000 people, mostly civilians, have lost their lives to the insurgency in Assam during the past two decades.
(With agency inputs)