At least six militants of the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) were arrested in Assam in stepped up offensive by security forces after it unravelled a plot by the outfit to hijack an aircraft, officials said on February 15.
A police spokesman said the ULFA group was arrested from Goroimari village on the outskirts of Assam's main city of Guwahati on February 14 while trying to sneak into the city with a huge consignment of explosives in a boat.
"Not only did we manage to capture the six militants, but we also averted a major disaster as the group was carrying about 10 kg of RDX aimed at unleashing a reign of terror in Guwahati," Debojit Hazarika, police chief of Kamrup Rural district, told IANS.
In the last week, the police have arrested at least 10 ULFA militants from areas around Guwahati in separate raids - the latest in a stepped up anti-insurgency drive.
"The heat is on and we are getting the desired results with many dreaded ULFA militants in our net already," another police official said.
The recent raids come in the wake of leads provided by Manoj Tamuly, a hardcore ULFA militant, who was arrested by police last week from the outskirts of Guwahati.
Tamuly, during interrogation, told police and intelligence officials about a plot by the ULFA to hijack an aircraft for which cadres received specialized 18-day training somewhere in western Assam about six months ago from a Pakistani Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) operative.
"A plan to hijack a plane was hatched and we also met in New Delhi with some of our top leaders to discuss this (hijacking plan) on November 14 last year," Tamuly told IANS while being brought to court in Guwahati.
Based on confessional statements of the arrested ULFA rebel, police swooped down on over ground sympathisers of the outfit and arrested a rights leader, Lachit Bordoloi, and an executive of a private airline Air Deccan, Sumanta Dutta, from Guwahati. Bordoloi and Dutta were arrested on charges of aiding and abetting the ULFA and helping in their plot to hijack an aircraft.
The duo denied the charges.
The ULFA, fighting for an independent homeland in Assam since 1979, also denied any hijacking plot.
"From what we have heard from Tamuly and Dutta during interrogation, the ULFA was seriously contemplating the hijacking plot," said Debojit Deuri, additional police chief of Guwahati.
The ULFA and New Delhi entered into a ceasefire in August 2005 but the truce was called off after six weeks with the central government blaming the outfit for stepping up violence and indulging in extortions.
The ULFA said it would sit for peace talks with New Delhi only if the government agrees to discuss their main demand of sovereignty or independence and release five of their top jailed leaders.
New Delhi has already rejected a discussion on ULFA's demand for sovereignty.